Have you enjoyed a glass (or three) of wine with your friends, felt the need to pop to the loo, when your friend grabs your hand and tells you to ‘sit down’ because if you wee you're going to ‘break the seal’?
Well, guess what? Breaking the seal isn’t a real thing. When you drink alcohol you’ll need to pee more, whether you wee earlier on in the night or not. Crossing your legs and ignoring that tingling feeling can lead to health problems (more on this in a bit).
To be clear, alcohol doesn’t cause bladder leaks. However, if you already have a bladder problem, for example, you have stress urinary incontinence (SUI) or an overactive bladder, alcohol can make your symptoms worse (1).
Do you feel drinking alcohol is affecting your day to day life? Are you waking up to find that you’ve peed in your sleep? Well, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are things you can do, such as speaking to your doctor, drinking in moderation, and using INNOVO to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
In this post, we’ll be covering the effect alcohol has on your bladder and how drinking too much can cause you to wet the bed. We'll also take a look at what you can do to stop bladder leaks after drinking alcohol.
Alcohol incontinence issues
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means after you’ve had a drink you’ll produce more urine so naturally, you’ll need to wee more often (2).
When you drink plenty of water you’ll notice that your urine is clear or a pale yellow. When you drink lots of alcohol it can cause you to become dehydrated and you’ll notice that your wee turns darker in colour, becomes cloudy, and may smell unpleasant.
When wee sits in your bladder it becomes more concentrated and can cause irritation and inflammation in the lining of your bladder. This increases your chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) which can sometimes lead to a kidney infection (3). This is why you should never resist the urge to urinate in order to “not break the seal”.
Make you go more often
Beer, wine, and spirits are bladder stimulants, which means the more you drink, the more you’ll find yourself on the loo. The urge to visit the loo happens because the detrusor muscles are contracting too much. If you're diagnosed with having an overactive bladder, alcohol can make your bladder leaks worse (4).
Needing a wee can be frustrating on a night out or whilst travelling as taking regular trips to the toilet, or waiting in the queue when you're bursting for a wee, can be a nightmare. If you have a physical impairment too, this may make it difficult for you to reach the toilet in time.
Bladder leaks in bed or public
Here comes the science bit: Alcohol suppresses the antidiuretic hormone (ADH). The role of ADH is to stop the kidneys from making too much urine, this then stops you from dehydrating. But when you drink alcohol, it suppresses the amount of ADH made, so your body makes more urine than it should (5).
So after a drinking session, your bladder fills up quicker than normal and if not emptied, will continue to balloon. If you’re asleep and don’t realise that you need the toilet, your body still has to release the pressure building up and you’ll wee while you’re sleeping.
Alcohol can also relax the bladder muscles. When you’re awake, this can leave you rushing to the toilet or wetting yourself.
Thinking you need the toilet when you don’t
Drinking a lot of alcohol can cause your brain to send impaired signals to your body, tricking you into thinking you don’t need to go when actually you do. If you've ever found yourself needing the toilet on a night out and then not being able to pee—this may be why.
How can I prevent a weak bladder when drinking alcohol?
If you’re experiencing leaks as a result of bladder weakness it’s important to speak to your doctor.
Bladder weakness can have multiple causes and it’s important to identify the root cause in order to treat your specific type of incontinence. By identifying and treating incontinence, you can reclaim control over some aspects of your life and have the confidence to be in crowded or awkward environments such as planes or trains, or even on a night out without worrying about going to the toilet as often.
If your leaks relate to when you have consumed alcohol, they'll tell you to cut down on the number of drinks you’re having.
The daily recommended amount of alcohol for both men and women is 14 units a week if you’re drinking on a regular basis (6). Find out how much you're drinking using the unit calculator.
What can you do to limit your alcohol intake (5, 7,8, 9)?
- Switch to a 5.5% wine instead of the usual 12 -14%
- Stop using your favourite giant novelty wine glass (we’ve all got one)
- Don’t mix your drinks with caffeine and fizzy drinks, as these can irritate your bladder
- Pace yourself and don’t drink too late into the night
- Go to the toilet right before you climb into bed
- Set an alarm and go to the toilet during the night
- Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles using Kegel exercises
Control your weak bladder with INNOVO
Kegel exercises are the first-line treatment your doctor will recommend to stop your bladder leaks. Knowing that you can take immediate action is empowering, but doing Kegels can be boring, time-consuming, and tricky to get right. That’s where INNOVO can help.
INNOVO is a pair of shorts that you wear for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, whilst relaxing (preferably without a glass of wine in your hand). INNOVO does 180 perfect pelvic floor exercises for you, taking the guesswork out of those Kegels. Find out how INNOVO works and how it can treat your bladder leaks—Cheers to that!
- National Association for Incontinence. Could Alcohol Be Causing Your Bedwetting Problem? Accessed September 2021.
- NHS. 10 Ways To Stop Leaks. Reviewed November 2019.
- Hartmann. Alcohol & The Impact It Has on Your Bladder and Bowels. August 2018.
- NHS. Urinary Incontinence: Causes. Reviewed November 2019.
- Cleveland Clinic. Do You Wet the Bed After a Night of Drinking? Here’s Why. Accessed October 2021.
- NHS. Alcohol Units. Reviewed April 2018.
- Healthline. Do You Really ‘Break The Seal’ When You Pee After a Drink? Published December 2019.
- Drinkaware. Low Alcohol Drinks. Accessed October 2021.
- Mayo Clinic. Overactive Bladder. Published March 2020.