How to cope with night-time incontinence

Struggling with incontinence during the night can be difficult to manage, no matter your age or reason for experiencing incontinence. Many people incorrectly believe that night time incontinence is not treatable. Research  has shown that around a third of women and half of men don't seek help for incontinence. What's more, around a third of women and quarter of men don't even take steps to become dry.

Thankfully, there are some things that can be done to make sure you can sleep soundly through the night. We spoke to Dr John S. Young, Associate Professor in Urology, to find out more about how incontinence can affect people at night-time, as well as advice on how to deal with it.

How can incontinence affect someone at night-time?

Incontinence can get in the way at any time of the day, but experiencing night-time incontinence presents a whole new set of challenges. Dr. John says:
 
“Night-time incontinence can be embarrassing, bringing back memories of bedwetting as a child. Then there’s practical matters, which can seriously disrupt sleep. For those people experiencing this symptom for the first time in decades, it can be really impactful: reducing quality of life, causing depression and anxiety.” 

How can you deal with night-time incontinence?

If you’re at your wits end with incontinence then here are some simple things you can try to alleviate the problem, and help you get a better night’s sleep.
 
Change your fluid intake

Night-time incontinence can be exacerbated by lifestyle - particularly the timing and type of fluid intake – so consider reducing fluid intake in the late evening, and seeing whether avoiding alcohol and caffeine help. Be careful not to go too far, as people suffering with incontinence can become dehydrated and can lead to other issues. So it’s best to try changing the timing of fluid intake rather than reducing intake.
 
Check with your GP

In many, night-time incontinence may be a symptom of overactive bladder or a urinary tract infection – so it’s worth seeking your GP’s help to rule this out. These underlying causes can be treated, so it’s essential to arrange an appointment with your GP.
 
Other health issues that affect the lower urinary tract may be responsible: type 2 diabetes causes more frequent urination which may include night-time incontinence; and an enlarged prostate in men likewise. 
 
Review your medications

It would be sensible to ask your GP to review any medications you’re taking - especially new ones - to see if they have diuretic effects. Diuretics increase urine production and may result in night-time incontinence. Other medications, including insomnia medications and psychiatric medications (thioridazine, clozapine, and risperidone), may be responsible for your incontinence.

What aids can people use to help with night-time incontinence?

Incontinence isn’t permanent with the right help. According to Dr. John: “night-time incontinence can be resolved in most individuals through a simple intervention.” If you can follow the above steps to modify when and what fluids are consumed, try to diagnose and treat any underlying conditions and change any existing medication that may be causing the problem, then you should be able to relieve your night-time incontinence. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help.
 
“While effective, it can take a little time to get into new habits or for changes to medications to take effect so, in the meantime, protective mattress covers can lessen the inconvenience and gentle moisturisers can relieve sensitive skin that’s irritated by urine.”
 
What are the best incontinence pads for night-time?
 
If you’re worried about leaking during the night, TENA offers all sorts of incontinence protection to keep you dry and comfortable to not disturb your sleep.

I’m worried about incontinence at night while sharing a bed with someone

It’s fine if you feel anxious sharing a bed with someone while you are experiencing incontinence at night-time. Try not to worry too much, and instead talk about incontinence with your partner to work through your fears.  
 
“If you’re suffering with symptoms and worried about disturbing the sleep of your partner, try to remember that they’re supportive,” Dr. John advises. “They may be grumpy when they wake during the night but ultimately they’ll be sympathetic to the impact your symptoms are having on you. As night-time incontinence is so common, it’s likely that you’ll be supporting them at some point too.”
 
Dr. John recommends if you’re sharing a bed with someone who is suffering with night-time incontinence, that it’s important to provide support. 
 
“The stress of night-time incontinence can make the issue worse and they’ll be worried that an episode will disrupt the night for both of you. When the night is disturbed, support them practically. And the next morning, encourage them to seek help from a healthcare practitioner. Reassure them that their GP will have seen many patients with this symptom and is there to help.”

When should I visit a health professional for incontinence at night?

Dr. John recommends that as night-time incontinence can be a symptom of diseases and conditions that affect the lower urinary tract, it’s always sensible to consult your GP as soon as you notice a problem.

You can prepare for the appointment by writing down:

        When episodes occur - and whether these coincide with incontinence during the day

        Amount of urine passed

        When and what drinks you’ve consumed prior to the episode - particularly late afternoon and evening

        Do you have any other symptoms? - however irrelevant they may seem

Night-time incontinence is very common,” says Dr. John, “it’s important to remember that it’s also entirely involuntary - so it’s not your fault. In many cases symptoms can be resolved with a simple intervention, so seek help and keep persevering in trying to find a solution.”