Reduce midnight bathroom runs by reducing salt


If making midnight bathroom runs are making your life miserable, there could be a possible explanation for that – eating too much salt the day before. 

A night-time interruption of having to go pee is known as nocturia and is common in many people over the age of 60.  For many, these unwelcomed urination interruptions can happen at least once or more during the night leading to a lack of sleep resulting in increased stress, irritability and tiredness the next day. 

Study on salt intake and night-time urination

Even though there can be several causes of nocturia, a study led by Japanese researchers have found that reducing the amount of salt in one’s diet appears to significantly reduce excessive urination when trying to get a good night’s sleep.  If a person is able to lower their intake of salty foods throughout the day, it could potentially help them to reduce the number of trips made to the bathroom during the night to urinate.

For the study, data was collected on 321 Japanese adults. Each participant had high salt intakes and trouble with sleeping through the night.  The participants were given instruction and guidance on how to lower their salt consumption and then were followed for 12 weeks. 

Results from the study

Out of the total number of participants, 223 were able to reduce their salt intake from 10.7 grams per day to 8.0 grams per day.  For those in this group, the average night-time frequency of urination dropped from 2.3 times a night to 1.4 times a night.  In comparison, the other 98 participants increased their average salt intake from 9.6 grams a day to 11.0 grams a day.  This groups’ need to get up during the night to urinate increased from 2.3 times a night to 2.7 times a night.

A surprise finding was that participants who lowered their salt intake, not only reduced their night-time bathroom trips but also found that daytime urination was reduced also.

This study was the first to measure salt’s influence on the frequency of night-time urination.  For many older adults, this is a real problem affecting the quality of their lives.  Even though more larger studies need to be done, this at least gives some guidance on making a simple dietary change which might make a significant difference for many people. 

Take home message on reducing salt in the diet

Currently, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people ideally consume no more than 1500 milligrams (1.5 grams) of sodium daily but for certain no more than 2300 milligrams (2.3 grams).  The amount of 2300 milligrams is equivalent to one teaspoon of salt.


Simple steps on reducing sodium intake include the following:

· Use fresh meat rather than packaged meats.  Fresh cuts of beef, chicken, or fish will contain natural sodium but the content is much less than hidden extra sodium added during processing to meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, pastrami, and lunch meats.

· Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables will have significantly less sodium than canned versions.  If you do buy canned produce, choose low sodium or rinse the food in a colander under cold running water to reduce sodium content.

· When buying frozen vegetables buy just the plain single vegetable and avoiding those containing added seasoning or sauces.

· Label reading is a must to become familiar with the sodium content of foods.  The sodium content is required on all nutrition facts labels.  Choose foods containing no more than 250 milligrams of sodium per serving.

· Select spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels.  As an example, choose garlic powder over garlic salt.

· Dining out can be a challenge when trying to avoid excess sodium.  If the restaurant has a website, check the sodium content of various items offered and choose the lower sodium dishes.  You can also always ask for a dish to be served without salt.

· Use herbs, spices, lemon juice, vinegar, or salt-free herb blends instead of salt in cooking. 

· Use half the seasoning packet provided in boxed mixes.

· Cheese can be high in sodium.  Compare different types of cheese.  Processed cheese like American cheese tends to be higher in sodium than natural or aged cheeses.


·  Cook noodles, rice, pasta, and hot cereals without adding salt. 

· Look for labels with the following terms:

· Sodium-free or salt-free

· Very low sodium

· Low sodium

· Reduced sodium or less sodium

· No added salt or unsalted