Binge watchers more likely to need multiple night-time loo breaks – study

<span>The researchers say increasing public awareness of the potential health risk may encourage people to be more mindful of their TV time.</span><span>Photograph: REB Images/Getty Images/Tetra Images</span>
The researchers say increasing public awareness of the potential health risk may encourage people to be more mindful of their TV time.Photograph: REB Images/Getty Images/Tetra Images

Sitting down to binge watch the latest TV drama might seem like the perfect way to unwind, but researchers have found that people who spend lengthy periods in front of the box are more likely to need to pee multiple times a night.

Writing in the journal Neurourology and Urodynamics, researchers in China report how they analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US, focusing on responses collected from 2011 to 2016.

The team found that 32% of the 13,294 participants, aged 20 and older, reported experiencing nocturia, the need to wake up and urinate two or more times a night.

After taking into account factors including age, sex, body mass index, ethnicity, education level and whether or not individuals had diabetes, the researchers found that the risk of experiencing nocturia was 48% higher in those who spent five or more hours watching TV or videos a day than those who watched less than an hour.

“To our understanding, this study represents the first exploration of the correlation between TV and/or video viewing time and nocturia,” the researchers write.

The team say the mechanism by which prolonged TV viewing increases the risk of nocturia is poorly understood.

However, they point to a number of possible explanations for the association, noting that lengthy sessions of TV viewing have been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for nocturia, while sedentary behaviour is associated with fluid retention in the legs that may also contribute.

“Moreover, TV watching typically aligns with beverage consumption, leading to an elevated fluid intake,” they write, adding that among other possibilities prolonged TV viewing may lead to neurological disorders that could trigger bladder dysfunction, and that TV watching may affect sleep duration or quality.

“And a decrease in sleep quality is closely linked to experiencing nocturia,” they write.

The study has limitations, including that it cannot prove cause and effect, and it relied on self-reported data including for TV watching habits.

Despite this, the team say healthcare professionals should tell patients about the link. “Increasing public awareness of this potential health risk encourages individuals to be more mindful of their TV and/or video time,” they write.

James Catto, professor of surgery at the University of Sheffield, who was not involved in the research said there could be a number of factors muddying the waters in the new study. Among them he noted those with nocturia tended to be older, have a higher body mass index than those without, and were less mobile.

“[Have] they got nocturia because they’re watching telly all day, or they watch the telly all day because of other factors and then they just end going to the toilet more often?,” he said, noting that cannot be answered by the current study.

Catto added that nocturia is common, particularly among older people, and that it is not necessarily a cause for concern – although it can occur as a result of cancer, infections or diabetes.

“If you’re going a lot at night, and it’s bothering you, see a GP, they’ll do a few tests to make sure you’ve not got diabetes,” said Catto. But, he added: “Most people are not too bothered by going once or twice at night.”