People who were aged over 65 told us about how their sleep is affected by needing to get up to go to the toilet in the night. They talked about prostate problems, other health conditions, caring responsibilities and ways they tried to get better sleep.
How often do older people visit the toilet at night?
For some people it was only once a night, and not every night. Others said they have to get up several times in the night on most nights of the week. This, naturally, left them feeling very tired during the day.
Although some people knew that needing to go to the toilet was waking them up, others woke up for no clear reason but decided to go to the toilet anyway. There was a feeling that if they went to the toilet when they woke up that this would mean they wouldn’t have to get up again in the night.
John isnt sure whether he is waking up because he wants to go to the toilet, but wonders whether…
Mary isnt sure whether she is waking because she needs to go to the toilet, but will go anyway…
Many find that they can’t get back to sleep after a toilet visit. They started to think about problems and worries that they had, or what they had to do the next day. Some of the worries people talked about were simply whether they may need to get up and go to the toilet again that same night, which they knew would leave them very tired the next day.
Roy tries to relax when he gets back into bed after going to the toilet, but then he starts to…
Why do older people visit the toilet more at night?
People gave several reasons for why they might need to get up so often in the night to go to the toilet. One explanation was that it was just a natural part of getting older.
Men told us that they blame their frequent visits to the toilet on prostate problems, which are more common in older men. Some men had been diagnosed with prostate problems, a few believed this was the cause of their visits to the toilet, whether it had been diagnosed by a doctor or not. Some found that treatment for their prostate problems helped reduce the number of trips to the toilet in the night. It made no difference at all for Otto however, despite going back for further treatment.
Fred has noticed a big improvement in the number of times he has to get up to go to the toilet…
Other illnesses, such as diabetes, affected people’s need to go to the toilet frequently during the night. Ronald had been advised to drink more water to help his gout, which in turn was increasing the number of times he needed to get up during the night.
Although several of the people we spoke to lived on their own, some lived with partners or wives. Anne explained how both she and her husband often got up to go to the toilet in the night. They also both woke up immediately when either one of them got out of bed, and she felt that this stopped them both from sleeping deeply.
Part of Robert’s role in caring for his terminally ill wife at home was helping her to go to the toilet during the night.
Roberts sleep was disturbed often because of helping his wife to go to the toilet in the night.
Strategies for getting more sleep
People had several strategies for getting back to sleep in the middle of the night and one of them was actually going to the toilet. This was to help them feel more comfortable and reassure them that they wouldn’t need to get up again.
Sue B. said she goes to the toilet several times before she goes to bed to try and prevent her having to get up in the night and this does, on the whole, seem to work for her.
Mike felt if he went to the toilet just in case, it would make him feel more comfortable and help…
Others tried restricting the amount of drinks they had during late afternoon and evening. The time they stopped drinking varied from between 4.30 pm or within an hour or so of going to bed. Sometimes people told us they were aware that what they drink affects if or how frequently they go to the toilet, but still continue to drink.
At one point, Otto stopped drinking anything after 4.30 pm to avoid having to get up in the night, but then became concerned when he read somewhere that going without fluids made you feel weak. He started drinking more, but still won’t drink after 5.30 pm.
Val is aware that if she drinks tea after 6 oclock this may mean she has to get up in the night…
John tried drinking a milky drink to help him get to sleep, but found that he then had to get up…
Nearly all of the people who complained of having to get up in the night said that a perfect night’s sleep would be one without the interruption of having to go to the toilet at all. Or for those who are used to going several times in the night, a perfect night’s sleep would be going just once.
Overall, most people accepted this change to their sleep pattern because they saw it as a part of getting older, and felt that there was nothing they could do about it.