Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Sleep Disorders

Embarassing when I drink

01/22/2008

Question:

Hi my name is..... and when I drink excessive alcohol and go to sleep before I sober up, I tend to wake up in a puddle. Why do you think I am wetting the bed when I drink and not when I don`t. O am 20 years old and most of the time when I drink O sleep away from my home, so you can see how this would be very embarassing. I also experience trouble emptying my bladder most of the time when I urinate. I understand that stopping the alcohol intake would be the most reasonlible solution but at this point in my life I am not sure that I am willing to do so. Please give me any answers/suggestions that you my have. Thanks

Answer:

Bed wetting in sleep, also known as sleep enuresis, is quite common in children but begins to decrease in frequency once above the age of 5. Only about 1-2% of 18 year olds will have this problem and it was previously thought to become less frequent in adulthood, though recent studies suggest 0.5-2% of adults report enuresis. It then becomes more common in the elderly population, when urinary incontinence may develop.

Many cases of sleep enuresis in adulthood are due to other underlying medical problems and do not represent a problem with the urinary system per se. These conditions may include obstructive sleep apnea (repetitive airway closing in sleep), congestive heart failure, diabetes, nighttime seizures, depression, severe psychological stress, and dementia. Problems or disorders of the urinary tract system that can result in enuresis include urinary tract infections, an overactive bladder muscle or loss of control of the bladder sphincter. Of course, the excessive intake of fluids or substances that promote urination (i.e. diuretic medications, caffeine, and alcohol) can also lead nighttime bedwetting.

Based on the information you provided in your question, it is very likely that your problem relates directly to your use of alcohol. When some individuals drink alcohol, particularly if they tend to drink to excess (i.e. drink a lot of beer), they ingest significant quantities of fluid that have to be eliminated from the body. This is accompanied by the fact that alcohol, especially when used in excess, has sedating properties that may render the brain less responsive to the body’s signals (such as the need to get up and go empty your bladder). This could lead to a failure to awaken once the bladder is full, and thus bed wetting.

I recommend that you try limiting your alcohol intake and see if this eliminates the problem. If not, or if there is suspicion for one of the above mentioned disorders, then you should discuss this issue with your primary care physician. Specific factors in your history, such as if you truly cannot empty your bladder completely when awake, will be useful in determining how best to further evaluate and treat your problem. Referral to a Urologist or Sleep Specialist in your area may also be needed.

If you would like further information about sleep disorders or sleep itself, I recommend the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information about sleep medicine, the website also contains a list of accredited Sleep Centers and may help you to locate one nearest you. Good Luck!

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University