Most people can go six to eight hours between peeing and avoid middle of the night forays to the bathroom. But getting up once or twice at night to pee is pretty normal, especially if you’ve been out partying or had a pot of chamomile tea before bed. Nothing to worry about there — you’re unlikely to have chronic frequent urination. If it bothers you, knock off the fluid intake at least an hour or so before hitting the sack.
Pregnancy can also increase bathroom visits for two reasons. Hormonal changes means blood is flowing quicker through your kidneys, which fills your bladder more often. Also a growing uterus can put pressure on your bladder.
What if I need to go a lot?
If you don’t happen to have a bun in the oven and you consistently wake up to pee two or more times a night, you may have a condition called nocturia, the term for chronic frequent urination. At the very least, nocturia interferes with your ability to get the rest you need, leaving you drowsy, cranky, even a bit judgment-impaired the next day.
In the best cases, nocturia may simply be caused by too much fluid at night. (Maybe you worked out late and drank a lot of water?) But it can also be a symptom of more serious conditions like diabetes or, with older people, even heart failure. Diabetes makes you have to pee a lot because the excess sugar that doesn’t get absorbed by your kidneys ends up in your urine and draws extra water, thereby increasing your need to pee. Heart failure causes excess fluids to collect in the kidneys.
Nocturia can also result if you’ve had a recent urinary tract infection or if you have an overactive bladder, officially called "urge incontinence." Fortunately, there are things you can do to help: Avoid irritants such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods, especially after dinner. Women should stay away from those feminine wipes since the chemicals can be irritating. Kegel exercises can also help, since they strengthen pelvic floor muscles — never a bad thing.
Note that nocturia does become more common with age, thanks to the decline of an anti-diuretic hormone. For those who have a problem with nocturia that is not a symptom of a more serious health problem, doctors can prescribe drugs that reduce the urge to go at night. However, potential side effects of these drugs — blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, memory impairment — are not pleasant.
But don’t sweat the occasional trip to the loo. It’s better to get up and go than to hold it in. Keep the lights dim to be least disruptive to your sleepy state — just bright enough to aim accurately.