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Why Was Aleve Better Than Tylenol for Bed-Wetting?

Bed-wetting is a problem for adults as well as children. Could OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen help with nighttime urination or bed-wetting?

Bed-wetting is not just a child’s problem. Enuresis, as it is known medically, can also affect older people. Doctors sometimes prescribe anticholinergic drugs such as oxybutynin (Ditropan, Oxytrol) and tolterodine (Detrol). Such medications are approved for treating OAB (overactive bladder). But we worry about how such drugs might affect cognitive function over the long term. There is reason to believe that strong anticholinergic drugs may increase the risk of developing dementia. Could ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve) help with bed wetting?

Q. A friend of mine has been bothered with bed-wetting for quite some time. He recently changed his OTC pain reliever from Tylenol to Aleve and the bedwetting has stopped.

Is this a coincidence or a fluke, or is there a chemical reason you know of? If it’s real, it could be a boon to the elderly.

A. Naproxen (Aleve) can reduce the amount of urine a person produces overnight (Canadian Urological Association Journal, Dec. 2008).

Researchers reported that a popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used in Japan (loxoprofen) was also effective at reducing frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom (nocturia):

“Nocturia improved or disappeared in 74.2% of patients: excellent, improved, unchanged, and worsened results were obtained in 37.6%, 36.6%, 21.5%, and 4.3% of patients, respectively. Loxoprofen can be an effective and useful treatment option for patients with BPH complaining of refractory nocturia.”

In Acta Medical Okayama February, 2004

NSAIDs That Improved Symptoms of Excessive Nighttime Urination:

A British study noted that another NSAID, diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), also eased symptoms: (European Urology, April, 2006):

“NSAIDs are effective in the treatment of nocturnal polyuria causing a decrease in nocturnal frequency with subjective symptom improvement. Our study suggests a novel treatment option for this common condition.”

Nocturnal polyuria” is doctorspeak for increased nighttime urine output. It can lead to frequent trips to the bathroom to pass this extra volume of fluid. A deep sleeper may end up with a bed-wetting problem.

Celecoxib and Hard-to-Treat Nocturia:

Other research has suggested that NSAIDs like celecoxib (Celebrex) may also reduce symptoms of hard-to-treat nocturia (Urology, Oct., 2008). Celecoxib has some similarities to ibuprofen and naproxen. The investigators found that this pain reliever halved the number of times men with enlarged prostates needed to get up to urinate during the night. Here is what they reported:

“The etiology of nocturia is still obscure in many patients. It appears that many factors are involved, including pathologic conditions such as lower urinary tract obstruction, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, edema, diabetes insipidus, primary polydipsia, and sleep disorders. Nocturia can be attributed to nocturnal polyuria and/or diminished nocturnal bladder capacity.

“In the present study, nocturia either improved or disappeared in 82.5% of patients after celecoxib treatment compared with 22.5% in the placebo group. Considering that their nocturia had not improved sufficiently after alpha-blockers and finasteride, the effectiveness of celecoxib is highly encouraging.”

Other Reader Stories:

These research reports might help explain why your friend’s bed-wetting problem disappeared with Aleve. We have heard from other readers that taking ibuprofen in the evening cuts down on the number of bathroom visits needed.

MM added this experience:

“I have the problem of getting up 2-3 time per night for a toilet visit. I have also noticed that if I take a couple of Advil prior to retiring I am more likely to sleep undisturbed for 5-6 hours.
I plan to discuss this with my doctor during the next visit.”

Leonard in California also got some relief from ibuprofen:

“I was suffering from back pain but my go-to-drug, acetaminophen, was not working.

“By the way, I usually have to get up at least three times a night to urinate. This leads to groggy sleep.

“Since my back was hurting, I decided to try ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen. It did little for my back but to my surprise I did not get up at all to urinate. Repeating the ibuprofen produced the same joyful results. Time to ask my doctor about this unexpected benefit and find out about risks.”

Matt was suffering from polyuria:

“I am being treated for overactive bladder. I often have periods when I have to urinate as often as every 15 or 20 minutes. I’ve found that taking ibuprofen helps relieve the frequent urges to urinate.”

The Risks of NSAIDs for Nocturia or Bed-Wetting:

Despite the research and the anecdotes, we must point out that regular use of NSAIDs to control nighttime urination might put a strain on the kidneys (Nephron, April 2017).  Your friend should ask his doctor to monitor kidney function. Anyone who experiences symptoms of frequent urination or bed-wetting should be evaluated by a physician. Other NSAID-related side effects include high blood pressure, indigestion, stomach ulcers, perforation of the stomach, small intestine or large intestine, fluid retention, heart attacks, strokes, irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation), congestive heart failure, liver damage and blood disorders.

Raisins and Beets for Nocturia?

Although there is no research to support home remedies for excessive nighttime urination, we have heard from many readers that a handful of raisins may be helpful. Others report that beets can be beneficial. Click on the links to read more. Share your own experience in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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