Is there a connection between nocturia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Absolutely! Although seemingly unrelated medical conditions, nocturia is commonly associated with OSA. [1,2]

A retrospective study [1] (n = 138) reported pathologic nocturia (≥2 urination events per night) in 47.8% of patients with OSA-hypopnea-syndrome. In this study, nocturia was linked to increasing age, 02 desaturation and severity of OSA. In another study (n=30), OSA (defined as apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] ≥5) was diagnosed in 66% of patients with nocturia with increasing nocturia associated with higher AHI.[2]

Recall that repetitive apnea episodes in OSA expose cardiovascular system to cycles of exaggerated negative intrathoracic pressure. [3] This causes myocardial stretching which is likely the reason OSA has been linked to elevated nocturnal atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) levels. [4] In turn, ANP as an aldosterone inhibitor, increases salt and water excretion causing nocturia. Of interest, use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has been shown to normalize ANP levels [5] which may explain CPAP’s favorable impact on the frequency of nocturia based on a meta-analysis. [6]

Although the role of screening for OSA in nocturia remains unclear, OSA should be considered in the differential diagnosis of nocturia, especially in men and women younger than 50 years of age. [7,8]

Bonus pearl: Did you know that OSA has been associated with recreational MDMA (“ecstasy”) use, with severity of OSA correlating with lifetime MDMA exposure? [9]

Contributed by Fahad Tahir, MD, Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

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  1. Hajduk IA, Strollo PJ Jr, Jasani RR, Atwood CW Jr, Houck PR, Sanders MH. Prevalence and predictors of nocturia in obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome–a retrospective study. Sleep. 2003 Feb 1;26(1):61-4. PMID: 12627734.
  2. Umlauf MG, Chasens ER, Greevy RA, Arnold J, Burgio KL, Pillion DJ. Obstructive sleep apnea, nocturia and polyuria in older adults. Sleep. 2004 Feb 1;27(1):139-44. doi: 10.1093/sleep/27.1.139. PMID: 14998251.
  3. Bradley TD, Floras JS. Obstructive sleep apnoea and its cardiovascular consequences. Lancet. 2009 Jan 3;373(9657):82-93. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61622-0. Epub 2008 Dec 26. PMID: 19101028.
  4. Svatikova A, Shamsuzzaman AS, Wolk R, Phillips BG, Olson LJ, Somers VK. Plasma brain natriuretic peptide in obstructive sleep apnea. Am J Cardiol. 2004 Aug 15;94(4):529-32. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2004.05.010. PMID: 15325948.
  5. Krieger J, Laks L, Wilcox I, Grunstein RR, Costas LJ, McDougall JG, Sullivan CE. Atrial natriuretic peptide release during sleep in patients with obstructive sleep apnea before and during treatment with nasal continuous positive airway pressure. Clin Sci (Lond). 1989 Oct;77(4):407-11. doi: 10.1042/cs0770407. PMID: 2530023.
  6. Wang T, Huang W, Zong H, Zhang Y. The Efficacy of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy on Nocturia in Patients With Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int Neurourol J. 2015 Sep;19(3):178-84. doi: 10.5213/inj.2015.19.3.178. Epub 2015 Sep 22. PMID: 26620900; PMCID: PMC4582090.
  7. Lowenstein L, Kenton K, Brubaker L, Pillar G, Undevia N, Mueller ER, FitzGerald MP. The relationship between obstructive sleep apnea, nocturia, and daytime overactive bladder syndrome in women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 May;198(5):598.e1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.02.024. PMID: 18455544.
  8. Moriyama Y, Miwa K, Tanaka H, Fujihiro S, Nishino Y, Deguchi T. Nocturia in men less than 50 years of age may be associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Urology. 2008 Jun;71(6):1096-8. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2008.02.038. Epub 2008 Apr 8. PMID: 18400277.
  9. McCann UD, Sgambati FP, Schwartz AR, Ricaurte GA. Sleep apnea in young abstinent recreational MDMA (“ecstasy”) consumers. Neurology. 2009 Dec 8;73(23):2011-7. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181c51a62. Epub 2009 Dec 2. PMID: 19955499; PMCID: PMC2790228.


Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, their affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!




Is there a connection between nocturia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

A previously healthy young man with chest pain is admitted to my service with the diagnosis of spontaneous pneumomediastinum. He doesn’t look ill at all. What causes should I consider?

Spontaneous pneumomediastinum (SP) is defined as the presence of mediastinal free air in the absence of an obvious precipitating cause and should not be confused with pneumomediastinum occurring in the setting of gross trauma or positive-pressure mechanical ventilation in intubated patients, or catastrophic events such as blunt or penetrating trauma, infection due to gas producing organisms, retropharyngeal perforation or esophageal rupture1,2.

SP frequently occurs in young men (Figure) and is associated with a variety of factors, most commonly illicit inhalational drug use (eg, marijuana, cocaine) and performance of a Valsalva-type maneuver causing alveolar rupture2.  Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine –MDMA) ingestion is also associated with SP, possibly related to its attendant physical  hyperactivity (eg dancing, sexual activity) or a contaminant that may predispose to alveolar rupture3,4.  Other causes not related to illicit drug use include childbirth, forceful straining during exercise, straining at stool, coughing, sneezing, retching/vomiting, pulmonary function testing, and inflation of party balloons1!

SP should always be distinguished from complicated pneumomediastinum (eg, in the setting of perforated viscus, trauma, gas-forming organisms), as it usually follows a very benign course with patients recovering without specific intervention1,2,5.

Figure: Spontaneous pneumomediastinum due to vigorous exercise in a young male



  1. Newcomb AE, Clarke CP. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum: A benign curiosity or a significant problem? CHEST 2005;128:3298-3302.
  2. Panacek EA, Singer AJ, Sherman BW, et al. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum: clinical and natural history. Ann Emerg Med 1992;21:1222-27.
  3. Gungadeen A, Moor J. Extensive subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum after ecstasy ingestion. Case Rep Otolaryngol 2013;
  4. Stull BW. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum following ecstasy ingestion and sexual intercourse. Emerg Med J 2008;25:113-14.
  5. Kelly S, Hughes S, Nixon S, et al. Spontaneous pneumomediastinum (Hamman’s syndrome). Surgeon 2010;8:63-66.
A previously healthy young man with chest pain is admitted to my service with the diagnosis of spontaneous pneumomediastinum. He doesn’t look ill at all. What causes should I consider?