Having a urinary tract infection (UTI) isn’t only unpleasant and possibly painful, but it can also really wreck your sleep. The good news is, there are a few strategies you can employ to help ease the nighttime discomfort.
In this article, we explore what a UTI is, explain its symptoms, and provide tips on sleeping better when you have a UTI.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system—your kidneys, ureters (the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder itself, and the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder to the outside of your body). Most UTIs involve the lower urinary tract—the bladder and the urethra.
Women’s anatomy makes them more prone to developing a UTI than men, but it’s important to point out that both sexes can get them. Although UTIs can affect anyone, certain people are at greater risk of developing them than others.
People who are more likely to get a UTI include:
- Sexually active women
- Men in their 50s and older
- Postmenopausal women
- Uncircumcised toddler and baby boys
- Male and female elders
- People with diabetes
- People with neurological issues
- People who use catheters
What are the most common symptoms of a UTI?
UTIs don’t always cause symptoms and can be mistaken for other conditions. But some symptoms are commonly associated with UTIs.
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red, bright pink, or cola-colored—a sign of blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain, in women—especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
How should you sleep with a UTI?
UTI symptoms can make sleeping difficult.
“This is because UTI has discomforting symptoms which may interfere with sleep, including the persistent urge to urinate, pelvic discomfort, and frequent urination,” says Virginia Blackwell, MD, with dofeve.org.
Although UTIs can interfere with your sleep, there are a variety of methods you can use to alleviate UTI pain and discomfort at night.
Tips for sleeping better with a UTI include:
1. Drink plenty of water during the day—and reduce your caffeine intake
Staying well hydrated will help to flush out the bacteria causing the infection. Limiting your caffeine will reduce the urge to urinate and the frequency of needing to “go.” (Drinking enough water can also help you sleep better with hemorrhoids. Here are more ways to improve your sleep with hemorrhoids.)
2. Limit your fluid intake in the evening
Drinking liquids in the evening, especially close to bedtime, can make you need to urinate during the night. Restrict your fluid intake to earlier in the evening.
3. Avoid foods and drinks that irritate your bladder
This includes caffeine, alcohol, carbonated drinks, chocolate, acidic fruits and juices (such as citrus juice), spicy foods, and tomatoes or products containing tomatoes.
4. Empty your bladder before bed
A UTI can make it harder to completely empty your bladder. Try double voiding at bedtime by emptying your bladder once, then wait a few minutes before you try again. Relieve your bladder as soon as you feel the urge because holding in your urine will make the symptoms worse.
5. Schedule nighttime bathroom breaks
You can set your alarm to wake you every two to four hours so you can urinate. This will prevent your bladder from overly filling and overflowing, resulting in a wet bed or a frantic urge to go.
6. Wear an incontinence pad or pants
If your UTI causes your bladder to leak at night, wearing these special undergarments will keep you from waking up to a wet bed. “This can ease the concern of urinating in your sleep,” says Blackwell. (Here’s how to get urine stains out of a mattress if you do have an accident.)
7. Sleep with a heating pad
Hold a heating pad or hot water bottle (wrapped in a towel) against your abdomen to minimize bladder discomfort or pressure.
8. Try a sitz (baking soda) bath
A sitz, or baking soda, bath, can help ease the discomfort of a UTI. It may also help remove bacteria and related odors. Simply add 1/4 cup of baking soda to warm bath water and soak for 15 to 30 minutes. The baking soda can help relieve the pain, while the warm water can help you sleep better.
9. Take pain relievers as needed
Consider taking a pain reliever such as phenazopyridine, which is available over-the-counter in several analgesics specifically for relief of the pain, burning, and urgency of UTIs.
Does lying down make a UTI worse?
Lying down may ease the discomfort of a UTI, but it may also make it more noticeable. That’s because lying in some positions can put pressure on your bladder and stimulate the need to urinate.
Do UTI symptoms get worse at night?
UTI symptoms could potentially be worse at night. Women experience worsened UTI symptoms during sleep/at night because urine output is at its lowest, explains Blackwell.
When should you see your doctor for a UTI?
If you still experience UTI symptoms despite your efforts to treat them, it’s time to see your doctor. Also, if recurring infections are an issue, talk with your doctor and see if they’ll prescribe an antibiotic to take each time you get one.
See a doctor if UTI symptoms do not clear up on their own within five days or if you experience fevers and nausea, says Blackwell. Your doctor can also prescribe a medication to treat an overactive bladder and prevent nighttime incontinence while your UTI heals with antibiotics.
Your risk for UTIs goes as up as you get older. Here are more age-related issues that can impact sleep and how to deal with them.