Men who regularly get up more than once a night to pee could be suffering from a range of health conditions, many of which can be treated if GPs look for them, according to University of Adelaide researchers.
The condition, known as "nocturia", is one sign of "overactive bladder syndrome".
"The need to urinate at night is a problem with urine storage, and this disrupts sleep. It is an indication of and can also exacerbate other health conditions," says Professor Gary Wittert, Head of the Discipline of Medicine at the University of Adelaide and Director of the University's Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health.
"Nocturia, combined with the sensation of not being able to hold on (urgency), or frequent urination, suggest the presence of overactive bladder syndrome. We're now beginning to understand the broader relevance of this in relation to other health problems."
One in five of Australian men aged 40 or over and a third of men aged 70 and over have overactive bladder syndrome.
In a new paper being published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urology and now online, researchers say that the presence of lower urinary tract symptoms, although commonly thought to relate to the prostate, may have more to do with factors outside of the bladder and prostate.
"These urinary problems are associated with other conditions, such as sleep apnoea, depression or anxiety, and obesity," says the lead author of the paper, Dr Sean Martin from the University of Adelaide's Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health.
"The good news is that many of these problems are treatable or modifiable, and we've seen in our study that men can overcome their urinary problems if the underlying issues are correctly managed."
Professor Wittert says: "Nocturia and overactive bladder syndrome are also risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"Often when a man presents to his GP about urinary problems, the first assumption is that it's all because of the prostate. However, our message is: men who are suffering from any of these water-works problems are also likely to be suffering from a range of other health problems that should be looked for and managed. In this way, men have a greater chance of reversing their bladder problems and potentially preventing more serious disease."
These results are part of the Men Androgen Inflammation Lifestyle Environment and Stress (MAILES) study at the University of Adelaide, which has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).