A new study finds that a significant number of patients with benign prostate enlargement (BPE) may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which may be the reason for their night awakenings and urination. The study’s findings have been published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

The researchers, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Israel, compared men between the ages of 55 and 75 who were randomly sampled from primary clinics, diagnosed with BPE, and reported nocturia (or waking during the night to void) at least once nightly. The comparison group had no BPE and one or no nocturia episodes per night. Nocturia is a common BPE symptom.

The researchers found that more than half (57.8%) of patients with enlarged prostates may in fact have the sleep disorder, and that the awakenings that patients ascribed to their need to urinate at night may be actually caused by their sleep disorders.

“If nocturia severity in BPE patients is actually a preexisting sleep disorder, this can now be treated and help improve patients’ quality of life,” says Howard Tandeter, MD, study coauthor and researcher in the family medicine department at BGU. He recommends that physicians treating patients with BPE, who report frequent awakenings from sleep to urinate, consider OSA as a possible cause and treat accordingly.

“Even among those patients with well-defined medical reasons for nocturia, sleep disorders may still be found as the source of most awakenings from sleep. Therefore, the diagnosis of a sleep disorder should be seriously considered whenever a patient reports frequent awakenings from sleep to urinate since the problem is treatable,” adds Tandeter.