A Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system, including your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, according to mayoclinic.org – and it can be a nightmare to sleep with. The infection itself can cause a whole host of stressful and painful symptoms, which inevitably keep the sufferer awake during the night.
It’s important to battle through this difficult stage in order to recover and heal from a UTI with the aid of proper rest. In order to sleep comfortably with a UTI, the main things you’ll need to do is take care of your irritating symptoms and deal with incontinence. We recommend tips such as:
- Drinking fewer fluids before bed
- Wear an incontinence pad
- Use a hot water bottle
- Stick to your antibiotics
To help you through the night, we have a list of helpful tips and tricks to ease your symptoms and eventually help you drift off to sleep.
How To Manage Symptoms At Home
Reduce Fluid Intake Before Bed
Staying hydrated when you’re fighting an infection is always a good strategy for quicker recovery time. However, this can cause extra issues when it comes to your UTI during the night. Drinking too much right before bed can increase your urge to urinate during the night – leaving you waking up and trudging to the bathroom when you should be asleep. If you can, try to restrict your fluid intake in the hours between dinner and when you go to bed.
It’s worth noting that staying hydrated will not only aid in recovery for a UTI, but also help you avoid getting one in the first place. In fact, according to a Mayo Clinic urogynecology physician assistant, Felecia Fick: “It’s estimated that 50% of UTIs can be treated by drinking a significant amount of fluid alone.”
With this being the case, we recommend that you drink plenty of water during the day when you are more likely to be active, rather than drinking it before bed when you need to stay rested.
Avoid Foods And Drinks That Irritate The Bladder
When you have a UTI, your urinary tract becomes inflamed, which means it’s important to avoid foods and beverages that can aggravate the problem even further. You can help this by cutting out certain foods and drinks, such as diuretics, which encourage you to urinate more often than usual. Limit the consumption of these during the day and especially restrict them before bed:
- Carbonated drinks
- Acidic fruits and juices
- Spicy foods
- Tomatoes and products that contain tomatoes
Use A Hot Water Bottle
Hot water bottles are regularly used to ease pain in the lower abdomen, such as for menstruation cramps. This makes them also soothing and useful for pain caused by a UTI. Fill a water bottle with hot water and ensure the top is screwed on tight. Once the temperature feels right for you, wrap the bottle in a towel or thin blanket (to avoid it scolding your skin), and place it against your lower abdomen.
Water bottles are great short-term option for soothing for UTI pain. But I always found that while thin plastic water bottles work in a pinch, I much prefer using an actual hot water bottle pouch for even heat distribution and to prevent accidental burns to already sensitive areas. I use this super inexpensive one that I found on Amazon – SteadMax Hot Water Bottle. I’ve had it for a few years and its worked great!
Take a Baking Soda Bath
Also known as a sitz bath, this type of bath is great for helping ease the discomfort of a UTI, and it may help remove bacteria and odors as well. To do so, simply add ¼ cup of baking soda to your warm bath water and soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Although a baking soda bath will not change the acidity of the urine, it can relieve the pain and offer therapeutic properties of a regular bath which can help you relax and sleep better as a result.
A while back during a particularly bad UTI I found that Sitz Bath Soak (link to best price on Amazon) worked even better than just using baking soda alone. I still keep some in the cabinet in preparation for a future UTI.
Use AZO Urinary Pain Relief
Seriously, this stuff just works! I keep some in my car, purse, and at home. Its over-the-counter so you don’t even need a prescription to pick some up. And it works even better than cranberry juice! I buy mine from Amazon because it’s the cheapest I can possibly find it – AZO Urinary Pain Relief!
Who To Visit And What To Ask For
See Your Doctor To Treat The Infection
As you are treating your painful symptoms at home, it’s very important to see a doctor to treat the underlying infection. Correct medical treatment can bring much quicker relief from your UTI symptoms, including nighttime urinary urgency. If you suspect that you may have a UTI, call your doctor or go to a local clinic. The signs to look out for, according to medicalnewstoday.com, include:
- Strong and frequent urge to urinate.
- Cloudy, bloody, or strong-smelling urine.
- Pain or a burning sensation when urinating.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Muscle aches and abdominal pains.
At the clinic, a sample of your urine will be taken to diagnose or rule out an infection. If you have a UTI, you will most likely be given antibiotics or other medications as prescribed by your doctor.
Ask For Spasm Relieving Medication
When you visit your doctor, it’s worth taking your time there to ask about other medications that can help with painful symptoms that antibiotics may not be able to treat. One being bladder spasms, which occur when your bladder muscles contract or tighten. These contractions can become painful and cause a constant urge to urinate. Let your doctor know that your infection and bladder spasms are causing urinary urgency that keeps you awake during the night. You could be prescribed with medication to relieve the feelings of pain and urgency that are disturbing your sleep.
If you aren’t prescribed any, you can also ask your doctor about taking over-the-counter medications like phenazopyridine or Azo-Standard, which can help relieve bladder spasms, urgency, and pain. These medications have few side effects and work for most people, but they will turn your urine red or orange when taken.
Ask About Medications To Control Incontinence
As mentioned before, you should ask your doctor for medication which will not only treat the infection, but also the symptoms. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a medication to keep nighttime incontinence at bay while your UTI heals with the antibiotics. Talk to your doctor about options such as anticholinergics, bladder-relaxing medications such as mirabegron, and alpha-blockers. You can also mention fesoterodine, a medication used to treat an overactive bladder with symptoms of urinary frequency and incontinence, which is especially useful during the night.
Coping With Incontinence
Empty Your Bladder Before Bed
A UTI makes it more difficult for you to empty your bladder completely, leading to frustration and frequent bathroom trips during the night. To empty your bladder as much as possible, you can try a technique called ‘double voiding’. To carry this out, sit on the toilet right before you go to bed and empty your bladder as much as you can. Before feeling frustrated or bored, stay on the toilet for another few minutes until you’re completely done. Once you have finished, try again later on – perhaps on your next scheduled bathroom break, which we will cover next.
Another useful tip is to adjust your posture. As you’re sitting on the toilet, lean forward slightly and rest your hands on your thighs or knees, or perhaps cup your hands together just over your knees. Sitting in this particular position can help you empty your bladder quicker.
Schedule Night Time Toilet Breaks
You might find yourself awake all night waiting for the moment you need to get up to urinate. This dreaded feeling and lack of sleep are neither helpful to you, nor treating your UTI. Instead, try setting an alarm to wake you up every few hours – perhaps every two to four hours – to help your bladder from becoming completely full, making your toilet breaks less frantic and urgent. Be sure to set these scheduled breaks at different times each night, otherwise, you may train your bladder to wake you up at specific times.
Wear An Incontinence Pad
Incontinence is a term that describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder, according to continence.org. Naturally, incontinence occurs more often during a UTI – even more so when you’re relaxed in bed. You may not be able to completely avoid this accident, but you can avoid soaking your bed sheets. To do so, wear an incontinence pad at night. These pads can usually be purchased in your local drug store near menstruation pads, or even online in bulk from Amazon. Here is one I found after quickly searching Amazon – Incontinence Pads.
Another option is absorbent briefs, which are specially designed undergarments fitted to prevent leaks.
Things You Shouldn’t Do When You Have A UTI
Do Not Put Off Seeing A Doctor
As mentioned before, treating your UTI is of utmost importance to healing and getting a better night’s sleep. The more you delay getting medical attention, the more you’re putting yourself at risk for serious health complications and allowing the infection to become worse.
“Waiting too long to start treatment can allow the infection to progress from a simple bladder infection treated with three days of oral antibiotics to a complex kidney infection requiring intravenous antibiotics,” says Ekene Enemchukwu, M.D., assistant professor of urology at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Failing to see your healthcare provider could also result in the delayed diagnosis of a more serious condition. UTI-like symptoms in the absence of bacteria can be caused by other conditions, such as vaginal infections, STDs, kidney stones, severe constipation, and vaginal atrophy.”
Do Not Stop Taking Your Antibiotics
Depending on the type and severity of your infection, your doctor may prescribe you to take antibiotics for a week or more. A lot of people tend to feel better within a few days of starting a course of antibiotics. However, you absolutely shouldn’t stop taking antibiotics just because you feel better, as the infection may return or become worse – leading to even more sleepless nights. As David Kaufman, M.D., of Central Park Urology in New York City told Women’s Health: “Survivor bacteria that have been exposed to a short course of antibiotics will evolve to resist that antibiotic.”
Various studies are done to determine exactly how long each antibiotic medicine needs to be in your system in order to fully eliminate infection, which means the amount of time you are told to take antibiotics for isn’t a random number.
Don’t Hold In Your Urine
Although it can be annoying to constantly go to the bathroom while you have a UTI, holding in your urine is not a better alternative. It can be tempting to stay tucked up in bed and ignore the urge, but you could be setting up your urinary tract for more complications down the road. When you hold your urine, you’re also keeping bacteria that float around in your bladder. The point of urinating is to get rid of this – so make sure you do so!
“Emptying out the bladder flushes out the bacteria that’s been introduced there,” claims Vandana Bhide, M.D., board-certified internist, and pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic. “Many women are so busy during the day that they don’t have time to urinate. This can increase the risk of UTIs [and make your symptoms worse if you already have one].”
Don’t Have Intercourse
Having sex while you have a UTI isn’t advised, as penetrative sex can cause a more painful and burning sensation, especially for women. “Most women with symptomatic UTIs avoid sexual activity because it’s too uncomfortable,” says Ekene Enemchukwu, according to Women’s Health. “It can also theoretically push bacteria from the vagina back into the bladder, causing a new infection. It’s generally best to refrain from sexual activity during an active infection to allow the inflammation to resolve.”
Doctors usually suggest waiting until the infection has completely cleared before having sex. However, you may decide otherwise depending on how you feel. Of course, sex can help you sleep better. So, if your symptoms have decreased in severity, but you are still on antibiotics, sex shouldn’t cause a catastrophic amount of damage. If you find that as you begin to have sex the friction is too much, hold off having sex for a while longer.
If you find that any of the symptoms of your urinary tract infection persists, even after finishing your course of antibiotics, it’s important to visit a doctor urgently and explain your situation. Hopefully, with the tips and advice above, you’ll be able to both clear your infection and find a comfortable way to get through the night.