Bedwetting sounds like something that only happens to small children, a trend that’s largely over by the time potty training is complete. However, there’s another subset of the population that may, from time to time, wet the bed: highly intoxicated adults.
After you engage in a night of blackout drinking, it’s unfortunately not uncommon to wake up with wet sheets and clothes. For most adults, this is highly embarrassing to deal with. Bedwetting carries with it a lot of shame, as bladder control is something most adults without any kind of compromising health condition have been managing for decades.
Wetting the bed when drunk is, in many cases, a warning sign that drinking is no longer under control. If urinating while sleeping after drinking alcohol is something that happens more than once, seeking help for an alcohol use disorder may be a benefit.
The Science Behind Bedwetting
An estimated one in six U.S. adults binge drinks around four times per month, with an average of seven drinks consumed per session. But binge drinking alone isn’t correlated with bedwetting, and you’ve probably experienced a night of heavy drinking without wetting the bed. So when does bedwetting happen and why?
Bedwetting isn’t something that happens at random for no reason; there’s science behind urinary incontinence that explains why individuals who are severely intoxicated are at a heightened risk for drunk bedwetting.
Changes in ADH Levels
First, alcohol suppresses a key antidiuretic hormone, or ADH, in the brain. On a normal day, when not impaired, this hormone sends signals to the kidneys to regulate urine production so the body doesn’t deplete its hydration reserves. However, alcohol can compromise this process, resulting in overproduction of urine. This change in ADH can continue after you pass out for the night, leading to urine levels that the body simply can’t control.
Impact on the Detrusor Muscle
In addition to affecting ADH levels, alcohol can also negatively impact the detrusor muscle located in the bladder wall, which plays a role in signaling a need to pee. When inhibitions are lowered and bodily signals are obscured by alcohol, it can be easy for you to miss this kind of sign.
Drinkers who favor beverages that include caffeine, like a rum and Coke, vodka and Red Bull or Irish coffee, can be at heightened risk. Caffeine can cause the detrusor muscle to contract, signaling a need to urinate before the bladder is full. This can drive urination, too.
Timing and Volume of Alcohol Consumption
The timing and volume of alcohol consumption can also play a role in bedwetting. Most people drink far more when seeking intoxication than they would under normal circumstances, particularly when beer or wine is involved. Heavy drinkers can require a lot of alcohol to get drunk, which can result in a fuller bladder and more frequent urination.
Timing can make this worse, too. If you drink a lot of alcohol in the evening or at night, you may hit the sheets while alcohol levels are still building in the body. When the bladder continues to fill after a drinker passes out, bedwetting becomes far more likely.
For those who’ve experienced wetting the bed when drunk and want to avoid further episodes, there are some steps that can be taken to minimize the likelihood of future problems.
- Drink less alcohol: Going to bed with a buzz rather than getting drunk to the point of blacking out from severe intoxication significantly decreases the chances of bedwetting. Drinking less is a good lifestyle choice, too.
- Switch to hard alcohol: As 1.5 ounces of liquor has roughly the same alcohol content as 12 ounces of beer, it’s possible to drink less while still getting a buzz. Next time you go out, skip the pitcher of beer and have a gin and tonic or whiskey neat instead. However, severe intoxication in any form should be avoided.
- Slow down: Chugging beer after beer may be fun, but it’s likely to lead to an increased need to urinate. Instead, take a break between drinks and give the alcohol time to metabolize. It might be a little harder to get a buzz this way, but slowing down alcohol intake is a great way to prevent alcohol-related problems, bedwetting or otherwise.
- Skip the caffeine: When enjoying a night out, skip beverages that have caffeine. Even if a rum and Coke has long been your favorite, the potential ramifications aren’t worth it. Some bars may also have caffeine-free versions of popular sodas, so don’t be afraid to ask the bartender for alternatives.
- Use the bathroom right before bed: After a big night of drinking, a bathroom stop immediately before bed is imperative. Even if you went recently or are so tired you can’t fathom any activity that isn’t falling straight into bed, relieve yourself first. An extra stop in the bathroom can be the difference between a peaceful night and wetting the bed when drunk.
- Set an alarm: Setting an alarm in the middle of the night may sound unpleasant, but it’s a better option than pee-soaked sheets and blankets. Pick a time two to four hours after going to bed and set an alarm or two. When it goes off, head to the bathroom, even if you don’t think you have to go. The effects of alcohol can be misleading.
Addressing Bedwetting With Treatment
Wetting the bed when drunk may be a one-time event following a night of youthful indiscretion and a single humiliating occurrence rather than a habit. However, should this occur more than once, a problem may be at hand.
Getting so drunk you lose bladder control can require a significant amount of alcohol, especially for those who are regular or heavy drinkers. Frequent laundry and mattress cleaning often indicate an inability to stop drinking before the tipping point, and that’s rarely a good sign. When alcohol use spirals out of control to this extent on a regular basis, getting help can be essential.
If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol, FHE Health is here to help. Our comprehensive step-down approach to treatment can provide the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety, helping those with an alcohol use disorder reclaim their lives. Contact us today to learn more.