Here’s When You Should Stop Drinking Water Before Bed To Avoid Late-Night Bathroom Breaks

Photo: Stocksy/Jovo Jovanovic
Water: It's what gives us life. Drinking enough water helps us stay focused, lubricates joints and muscles to power us through our workouts, keeps our skin bouncy and healthy, the list of perks goes on and on. It's why we lug around huge water bottles everywhere we go. But if you regularly jolt awake in the middle of the night needing to relieve your bladder, drinking water before bed seems like a fool's errand—or at the very least, a recipe for a midnight date to the bathroom.

However, sleep experts say that having some water before going to sleep is actually a healthy habit for most people. But is there a specific time at which you should begin to limit your fluid intake before catching your ZZZ’s? And how troubling are those twilight trips to the bathroom, anyway? We checked in with a urologist and a sleep medicine specialist for must-know insights about drinking water before bed—or whatever your liquid of choice may be.

Experts In This Article

Is it good to drink water before going to bed?

“For the vast majority of people, no problems will arise from drinking fluids close to bedtime or even drinking fluids during the night,” says Jade Wu, PhD, DBSM, a licensed clinical psychologist, board-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist, and author of Hello Sleep: The Science and Art of Overcoming Insomnia Without Medications.

There are actually some key benefits to drinking water before bed, experts say. For starters, it may help maintain hydration overnight. According to sleep expert and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, the act of sleeping is surprisingly dehydrating. "We lose almost a full liter of water every single night, so we wake up dehydrated in the morning," Dr. Breus previously shared with Well+Good. (We lose that through breathing and sweating.) So getting an extra dose of fluids before hitting the hay may not be so bad after all.

Drinking water in general is also good for your liver and kidney health. “Increased water consumption can assist the liver and kidneys in removing toxins by increasing urine,” Megen Erwine, RD, for LetsGetChecked, previously shared with Well+Good. Plain ol' water does this just fine on its own for this, but lemon water before bed is also a good option if you like flavor and extra vitamin C in your drink.

“We recommend that [people with nocturia] stop drinking fluids at least three hours before bedtime." —Michael Ingber, MD, board-certified urologist

For most people, drinking water before bed shouldn't disrupt your sleep with frequent bathroom breaks, either. “If you're generally healthy, you'll likely just sleep through and urinate in the morning," says Dr. Wu.

However, everyone metabolizes fluids differently, says Michael Ingber, MD, a board-certified urologist and female pelvic medicine specialist. Your rate of absorption will vary based on a range of factors, he says, such as your gastric motility (the rate of stomach emptying), health conditions you have and medications you take, and how hydrated you are at any given time. That variability means that some people can drink a ton of water before bed and not have any issues, while others might have to wake up a ton to pee (something that's called nocturia) if they do the same thing.

It’s also worth calling out that the total volume of fluids you ingest factor into the equation. “The average bladder holds about 400 milliliters in women, and 500 milliliters in men at maximum capacity,” Dr. Ingber says. “Therefore, any fluid being ingested after dinner might translate into urinating multiple times at night.”

If you tend toward lots of late-night pee breaks, Dr. Ingber has a general guideline for the best time to drink water before bed. “We recommend that [people with nocturia] stop drinking fluids at least three hours before bedtime,” he says. Still, this recommendation is more of a jumping-off point than a hard-and-fast rule. He suggests the three-hour window to start, and experiment from there as needed. Some people will find that limiting liquid intake during this time period can reduce late night (or early morning) trips to the bathroom, while others may benefit from an even longer window—such as ceasing your sipping from dinnertime onwards.

What not to drink before bed

The types of beverages you enjoy—both at night, as well as throughout the day—can impact the chances of rising earlier than you’d like with that gotta-go feeling. There are two main drinks that experts want you to avoid right before bed:

1. Alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic, "which means it will increase your fluid excretion and urine output,” Dr. Ingber shares. (Translation: You're more likely to get up at night to pee. Additionally while alcohol can actually prompt some people to fall asleep, most experts advise against using it as a sleep aid, as it can disrupt your sleep cycles and ultimately stand in the way of achieving high-quality rest.

2. Caffeinated beverages

Like alcohol, caffeine is a diuretic that will make you pee more often. “Caffeine is a stimulant and can mask sleepiness cues that the brain would otherwise send to the body to prepare for an adequate amount of sleep,” adds Dr. Wu. That said, some people can handle a post-dinner shot of espresso just fine, sans sleep disruptions from the caffeine or diuretic effects.

When should you stop drinking these types of beverages during the day?

Instead of proposing a timeline to limit intake of these drinks, both experts advise experimenting on your own. “The best way to know your personal limit is to keep track of when and how much alcohol and caffeine you intake and see if your sleep is affected,” Dr. Wu says. You just might notice that cutting off caffeine by noon, or enjoying a glass of wine with dinner instead of as an after-hours treat, can help you fall asleep with greater ease and reduce late-night trips to the bathroom. But again, it varies and can take some trial and error to find the exact groove that works best for you.

Is it bad to pee in the middle of the night?

Sure, waking up with a full bladder well before your alarm clock goes off can be inconvenient… but is it a major cause for concern? “Needing to urinate at night itself is not a problem unless it happens very often, which may disrupt sleep or increase the risk of falling,” Dr. Wu clarifies.

“Needing to urinate at night itself is not a problem unless it happens very often, which may disrupt sleep or increase the risk of falling,” Dr. Wu clarifies.

Certain people will likely benefit more than others by taking greater caution with their evening intake of liquids to help prevent peeing at night. “If you are elderly with mobility issues, or have nocturnal polyuria—a medical condition often associated with congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, and sleep apnea—your doctor might suggest that you limit evening fluid intake to decrease the number of times you need to urinate at night,” Dr. Ingber says. She adds people with urge urinary incontinence—especially those of advanced age—to this list. “In the elderly, men and women with urge urinary incontinence at night have a 10 times increased risk of falls and fractures compared to the rest of the population,” he warns.

The bottom line

Drinking water before bed can help you stay hydrated overnight and support healthy kidney function. “If people don't have any health condition, and aren't bothered by waking up at night, then they can drink all they want,” says Dr. Ingber.

However, Dr. Ingber notes that needing to relieve your bladder around three or four times nightly is higher than average. In this case, it may be worth checking in with your physician for further investigation, or heeding his three-hour-plus suggestion above to see how you, your bladder, and your sleep fare. To further reduce your chances of waking up to urinate, Dr. Ingber advises ingesting fluids in smaller volumes more slowly no matter the time of day, and always making sure to urinate shortly before hitting the hay.

An RD shares what you should eat before going to bed:

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