Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Louise Carter
Anybody can occasionally fall asleep on the toilet, especially when roused from a deep sleep and needing to use the bathroom at night. If this is becoming a habit, you must find out why.
Falling asleep on the toilet could result from exhaustion, as you’re not sleeping enough to gain sufficient rest. The sedative effects of alcohol commonly cause people to doze off on the toilet.
Narcolepsy (falling asleep at inappropriate moments) is uncommon but shouldn’t be ruled out. High blood pressure (hypertension) may also explain why you fall asleep when sitting down.
You’ll breathe in microscopic bacterial particles if you spend a prolonged period in the bathroom with the toilet seat up. Sitting upright for too long can also lead to restricted blood flow in the legs.
If you regularly fall asleep on the toilet, take steps to stop this from happening. Stand up while using the toilet, make the toilet seat uncomfortable, occupy your mind, or set an alarm to prevent dozing off.
Why Do I Fall Asleep On The Toilet?
Here are the most common reasons why people fall asleep on the toilet:
If you keep falling asleep on the toilet, are you prone to dozing off while sitting upright in other places? If so, you’re likely exhausted and aren’t getting sufficient sleep.
If you have insomnia and don’t sleep well, consider adjusting your lifestyle and embracing a better sleep hygiene routine. For example, not watching TV 1 hour before bedtime or eating late-night meals.
Rising from Deep Sleep
If you have nocturia, you may be roused from a deep sleep by the need to use the bathroom. If you feel groggy as you go to the bathroom, you’re still in sleep inertia and adjusting to wakefulness.
You won’t be fully awake when you sit on the toilet. Like hitting the snooze alarm in bed in the morning often results in dozing off again, the comparative comfort can lull you back to sleep.
Give yourself 1-2 minutes to awaken before heading to the bathroom. Also, consider splashing cool water on your face to gain sufficient alertness. Of course, this is unappealing at 3 AM.
While many people enjoy a nightcap before bed, drinking alcohol interferes with sleep. The Behavioral Neurobiology of Alcohol Addiction explains how alcohol has simultaneous stimulant and sedative effects.
This can lead to falling asleep on the toilet while drunk. If you’re already feeling sluggish due to alcohol, sitting down with nothing to occupy the mind can promote sleep.
If you fall asleep on the toilet drunk, you’ll be at risk of injury. If your circulation drops, the natural clumsiness associated with intoxication will be magnified, potentially causing you to slip and fall.
High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, the kidneys will struggle to cope once they reach full capacity, leading to more frequent bathroom trips.
Hypertension can also lead to exhaustion, dizziness, and feeling faint when you sit down.
Combine these factors, and you have a potential explanation for why you may fall asleep on the toilet, especially late at night when you’re already tired.
If you have other hypertension symptoms, including blurry vision, chest pains, headaches, and nosebleeds, make an appointment with a doctor.
If you keep falling asleep at inopportune moments, you may have narcolepsy. The New England Journal of Medicine stated that this condition impacts 1 in 2,000 people.
Narcolepsy is usually caused by the brain’s lack of hypocretin (orexin). While narcolepsy can affect anyone, it’s most commonly experienced by men between 20 and 40.
The main symptom of narcolepsy is sleep attacks, which involve falling asleep for up to 15 minutes. If you only fall asleep this way while on the toilet, narcolepsy is unlikely to be responsible.
Is Sleeping on The Toilet Bad?
We have beds for a reason, and the toilet would be low on the list of alternative places to sleep. While it’s unlikely that you set out to fall asleep on the toilet, it does have significant drawbacks.
The average toilet bowl has approximately 3.2 million bacteria per square inch. If the toilet lid is up, germs and bacteria will become airborne and circulate freely.
If you use the toilet, close the lid, flush, and walk away, the risk of bacterial exposure is limited.
Unfortunately, if you fall asleep, you prolong the time spent in the bathroom breathing in microscopic bacterial particles, especially if you doze with your mouth open.
Falls And Injuries
If you sleep on the toilet or sit there too long, blood flow to the legs and feet will be restricted. This leads to numbness and tingling, commonly called pins and needles.
We’ve all experienced pins and needles at one time or another, and it’s rarely a significant concern. It can be risky in a bathroom environment, especially if you’ve just awoken on the toilet.
Upon realizing you fell asleep, you’ll likely awaken with a start.
You can quickly lose your balance if you try to stand up on numb feet. Bathrooms are often small, so slipping and falling could increase the risk of hitting your head on a hard porcelain bath or sink.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Sitting still for a prolonged period regularly, such as after falling asleep on the toilet, can lead to deep vein thrombosis. DVT is caused by blood clots forming in the lower body, most frequently in the legs.
DVT can be devoid of symptoms or can be identified by swelling and leg pain. The condition has many health risks, especially as blood clots in the legs can travel to the lungs.
How To Stop Falling Asleep on The Toilet
Occam’s razor principle suggests that the simplest solution is often the best. If possible, don’t sit down when using the toilet at night. If you’re able to stand, do so before leaving the bathroom.
This won’t be an option for everybody. If you need to sit down when using the bathroom at night, consider these steps to reduce the risk of falling asleep:
Make the Toilet Uncomfortable
You’re less likely to fall asleep if you don’t put the toilet seat down before using it.
This will be uncomfortable and may force you to adjust your body weight, but that’s the point. You won’t relax and fall asleep if you find the position physically awkward.
Occupy The Mind
If it takes a while, keep your mind occupied while waiting. Leave a newspaper or magazine in the bathroom to read while you go to the toilet.
If you have something to do while sitting on the toilet, you’re less likely to succumb to tiredness.
Set An Alarm
If you’re prone to falling asleep on the toilet, you can set an alarm to wake you up. Place an alarm clock in the bathroom, or use the alarm on your cell phone.
You don’t even need to use anything hi-tech. A simple egg timer sold in a kitchen goods store will suffice. Set this to make enough noise to wake you if you’re still on the toilet after 10-15 minutes.
If you have a hard floor, try holding something like a teaspoon while sitting on the toilet. If you fall asleep, you’ll drop it, and the noise will startle you awake.
Keep The Lights On
If you move from an illuminated living room or bedroom at night to a dimly lit bathroom, your circadian rhythms may grow confused and cause you to fall asleep.
Unless the bathroom lights are on, the body will be flooded with melatonin, which encourages sleep. Turn on an overhead light before entering and sitting on the toilet.
Give the eyes time to adjust to the illumination and go to the toilet. Leave once you’re done, minimizing exposure to darkness. This approach should prevent the need to sleep from taking hold.