Scientists have pinpointed a protein that helps explain why the elderly frequently have to get up in the night to urinate, a problem that can badly interfere with sleep. Deficient levels of protein called connexin43 trick the bladder into believing that it is full, which sends a “must urinate” warning to the brain, they report on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.
Connexin43 is part of a cascade of proteins in the so-called circadian clock — the complex mechanism by which body processes crank up during daylight and slow down at night. During sound sleep, a healthy person produces a smaller volume of urine from the kidneys than during daytime. At the same time, more urine is stored during sleep than during the active, daylight phase. But when there are lower levels of connexin43, the smooth muscles of the bladder become over-sensitive to nerve signals that give a feeling of fullness, the study says.