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Why Do I Suddenly Have to Pee So Much in the Middle of the Night?

The most satisfying purchase I’ve made this year is a motion-activated tinted light for my toilet.

Ads for the GlowBowl began populating my Facebook timeline shortly after my 38th birthday, promising to “transform any toilet into a nightlight!”

Don’t you hate blinding lights, missing your target and messy cleanups? it asked.

You get me, GlowBowl.

I’d noticed a marked increase in nocturnal bathroom visits since my birthday, which was also likely noticed by Zuckerberg’s scary-smart algorithm for delivering relevant ads. I began logging my mid-sleep piss breaks (also known as nocturia) after reading that interrupted sleep may be just as harmful as no sleep at all because sleep occurs in stages; ideally you should progress from slow-wave sleep back up to REM sleep in 60- to 90-minute cycles. My need to go is usually accompanied by full wood, which, as we learned from our coverage of morning wood, indicates REM sleep. (The value of GlowBowl is apparent almost immediately upon struggling to piss through an erection in the dark of night — an otherwise sloppy endeavor.)

Prolonged interruptions like needing to piss every couple hours start the sleep cycles over, meaning I probably never reach the most restorative, deeper phases of sleep. Bright light is the worst thing to expose yourself to writes Dr, Joseph Mercola — a board-certified physician and my own personal WebMD — since bright light on the retina tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime, making it harder to fall back asleep.

He recommends keeping one eye closed if you need to use the bathroom. (Or, of course, buying a GlowBowl, which is dim enough that it allows you to piss without fully wresting you from your slumber.) Interestingly, way back when, people used to sleep in two shifts—each about four hours long, with an hour or two in between to get up, use the bathroom and take care of other activities like sewing, sex and/or chopping wood. The two sleeping periods were only condensed into one when electric light was invented, and people started staying up later.

While a fun history lesson, that’s not exactly how I want to spend my nights — save for maybe the post-midnight sex. (I’m all good on crocheted sweaters and firewood.) And so, I reached out to Paul Nelson, who recently told me about the importance of developing pelvic floor control, to see if he had any tips on developing bladder floor control. “Get your prostate checked,” he immediately replies. “It’s possibly benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate, which presses on the bladder and creates incomplete voiding, hence the frequency and urgency. This is definitely a urologist issue — get it checked out.”

Luckily, I also have a go-to urologist source, Alex Shteynshlyuger, so I called to see if he could shed some light on why I’m pissing like Secretariat throughout the night.

When a man reaches about age 25, Shteynshlyuger explains, his prostate begins to grow. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate tend to occur in your 40s and early 50s but can also appear in your mid-to-late 30s. The most common ones are frequent urination, particularly in the middle of the night; a slow urine stream; or a sudden, urgent need to pee, which is the most noticeable symptom, he explains, because people aren’t used to waking up at night.

“It’s important to remember that exactly the same symptom can be caused by many other things, such as a tumor or mass [in the bladder],” he says. “It could be an overactive bladder, too,” he adds.

I ask him about the treatment options for an enlarged prostate. “There are inexpensive medications called alpha-blockers like Flomax,” he responds, though he notes that a common side effect of this drug is an inability to ejaculate, which obviously is a source of frustration for some men.

For now, I’ll try my luck with the GlowBowl.