The Truth About Hammock Camping: Claim #5: hammocks make you pee more in the night
Every once in a while, I’ve had the annoying discomfort of needing to relieve myself in the middle of the night when I am toasty warm, snuggled up in my hammock. It’s happened regularly enough, in fact, that I wondered if the hammock was to blame. In asking around to other hammock users I found I wasn’t alone.
Claim #5: Do hammocks make you pee more in the night?
The truth is: they actually might. But the problem isn’t just the hammocks fault, and there could actually be a lot more involved medically. In fact, if you are having frequent trips to the bathroom in the night (Nocturia), it is a good idea to consult with a doctor.
When I’ve noticed nighttime nature calls, it’s usually when I’ve been out hiking or backpacking. Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated can be somewhat to blame in these situations, but I’ve noticed that even when I drink lots of fluids before bed I don’t consistently have midnight bathroom calls. If my body was truly dehydrated, than it would be absorbing that extra fluid instead of just passing through my kidneys. But drinking too much can be problematic, especially if it is more than the body needs. It is a balancing act. Drinking fluids is important to stay hydrated and even stay warm, since your muscles need water to help burn calories. With too much fluid, expect a rude awakening.
Certain drinks should be avoided (coffee, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol most often) because they are natural diuretics and will make you pee more, regardless of quantity. So, one bit of advice is to drink the right amount of the right fluids.
But if drinking more is not entirely to blame, what could it be?
Fluid buildup in the legs can be one cause, since this fluid settles once you lay down and is then processed. For those who do much hiking and backpacking, edema, or fluid buildup in the legs (and sometimes arms and hands) is quite common. In fact, hikers are often encouraged to rest and raise their legs to the level of the heart to help reduce the swelling, improve muscle recovery, and help the body process fluid buildup (lactic acid, etc.).
Now the hammock connection makes sense. Hammocks provide a recumbent-style lay, where the fabric moulds to the shape of your body to create a more comfortable sleep. Your heavier torso sinks down a little and your feet naturally elevate to the level of your heart. It’s quite brilliant. However, if during the day you’ve had some edema in your legs, that excess fluid is now settling and getting absorbed by your body, and in a few hours—probably in the middle of a comfortable night’s dream—you’ve got to go pee. Badly.
So, yes; the hammock provides a natural, healthier recumbent lay for your body that helps alleviate edema in your legs and tired feet, but that can have an unintended consequence.
If edema is the issue, which I believe it is in my case, the solution is an easy one: an hour or two before bed, elevate the legs so they are level with the heart so that excess fluid can be processed prior to sleeping.