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Sharp Health News

How long should it take to pee?

June 29, 2022

Person using the toilet

How long does it take you to pee? It’s a strange question and one you’ve probably never considered. But experts say there is a certain amount of time it should take to empty your bladder.

From house cats to elephants, most mammals take about 20 seconds to urinate. That goes for humans as well. If going No. 1 isn’t clocking in at around 20 seconds, you might want to look at your daily habits.

Determining the “golden number”
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology stumbled upon the “golden number” — the average amount of time it takes a person to urinate — while working on a project to figure out a better design for water towers. They used high-speed cameras to record animals urinating at zoos. By examining the footage in slow motion, they determined that mammals weighing more than 6.5 pounds take about the same time to urinate. Larger animals have longer urethras, which amplifies gravitational force and helps push urine out at a faster rate, they found. The study won an Ig Nobel Prize for physics — a satirical award celebrating research that “makes people laugh and then think.”

Described as the “law of urination,” the researchers’ findings may be a little odd, but can help us understand our own bathroom habits. When you feel the urge to empty your bladder, the sensation isn’t as simple as your bladder filling up with liquid — it’s a complex process involving muscles, nerves and organs that work together to tell you it’s time to go. As your bladder fills up, it expands like a balloon and sends signals to your brain as the pressure increases. However, when you urinate too often or delay urination, this brain-bladder communication can go haywire.

Why waiting to pee is a bad idea
Regularly waiting a while to use the bathroom can train your brain to ignore your bladder’s “full” signals. Having limited opportunities to use the bathroom at work, for example, means you may hold your urine and ignore the urge to go, resulting in longer urination durations when you finally do. On the other hand, short urinating times could be related to an overactive bladder. In this case, signals are sent to your brain saying you have to go even when your bladder isn’t full.

Dr. Tracy Marien, a board-certified urologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, says these habits can also cause other problems or indicate existing ones.

“Not emptying your bladder often enough may cause issues with recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to bacteria sitting and multiplying in the bladder,” she says. “Prolonged urination times associated with a weak urinary stream can be due to urinary obstruction, possibly related to an enlarged prostate or a narrowing of the urethra.”

Ideally, experts say adults should be urinating every three to four hours while awake, though the frequency may change depending on your liquid intake, health conditions you have, or whether you are pregnant.

Next time nature calls, consider counting the number of seconds it takes to relieve yourself — you may learn something useful about your habits. The 20-second rule is a good way to determine if you have bladder habits that require tweaking or a medical situation that calls for professional intervention.

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