A Tiny Bladder Isn’t the Only Reason You’re Waking Up in the Middle of the Night
Published in The Huffington Post
Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” is about a young regal girl whose sleep is disrupted by a tiny legume tucked beneath a stack of twenty mattresses. Her heightened sensitivity was said to be characteristic of royalty. If so, it may be that we all become royal in our sleep.
The dark and quiet of night coupled with the vulnerability inherent in sleep leave us all with heightened sensitivity. We become more aware of sounds, scents and signals from within such as heartburn, leg kicks or achy joints. Of course, we are also more sensitive to bodily needs related to temperature, thirst, hunger and, most notably, the need to urinate.
Frequent nighttime urination or nocturia is a problem that affects millions. Defined as a chronic need to urinate at least two or more times during sleep, nocturia is common among men and women of all ages but increases to an estimated 50-60 percent of those older than 60. The associated sleep disruption can have a deleterious effect on one’s health, mood and productivity.
People with insomnia frequently blame their bladders for their inability to sleep through the night. Although bodily signals are more difficult to sense when we are in deep or REM sleep, once we are awake, they can seem amplified against the stillness of night. Consequently, we may be more reactive to relatively small amounts of urine in our bladders than we are by day.
What really wakes us up?
Our princess didn’t know about that damned pea — she just couldn’t sleep.