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Bedwetting (Nocturnal enuresis)

About bedwetting

Bedwetting is a common problem for kids, especially those under six years old, and an issue many families face every night.

While it is common, if it suddenly occurs or happens with other symptoms, it can be a sign of other medical conditions.

Our nationally ranked urology team works with children and their families to address a wide range of issues including bedwetting, daytime wetting, voiding dysfunction and urinary infections.

Is bedwetting common in children?

Nocturnal enuresis, or bedwetting, is a common occurrence in children of all ages. In most cases, children who wet the bed are completely healthy and do not have any other urologic abnormalities.

Bedwetting is so common in the first few years after toilet training that it’s inaccurate to call it a condition and inappropriate to treat it medically in that age group. According to healthychildren.org, 20 percent of 5-year-olds and 10 percent of 7-year-olds still wet their beds.

Causes of bedwetting

The exact cause of bedwetting is unknown; however, it is thought to be due to a combination of physiological, learning, behavioral and emotional factors. There also appears to be a strong family component to bedwetting.

Research has shown that if one parent has a history of bedwetting, their child has a 44 percent chance of wetting the bed as well. If both parents have a bedwetting history, the likelihood that their child will wet the bed increases to 77 percent.

Studies have also shown that some children who wet the bed may have an abnormal level of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in their bodies. This hormone helps the kidneys retain water, which decreases the amount of urine stored in the bladder through the night. Low levels of ADH in the body result in increased urine production and may contribute to nighttime wetting.

However, many children who experience problems with wetting the bed simply never learned to stay dry at night.

Other causes include:

  • Your child is a deep sleeper and does not awaken to the signal of a full bladder.
  • Your child has not yet learned how to hold and empty urine.
  • Constipation
  • Response to stress or changes going on at home
  • Your child may have a minor illness or be overly tired.
  • Underlying medical problems

Signs of an underlying medical problem

Is your child experiencing any of these symptoms? Call us today to schedule an appointment with a urinary specialist.

  • Complains of pain when peeing
  • Suddenly starts wetting the bed after being consistently dry for at least six months
  • Drinking or eating much more than usual
  • Begins to wet his or her pants during the day
  • Older than 7 and still wetting the bed

Day time urine accidents vs nighttime bedwetting

Some children who wet the bed also have daytime urine accidents. However, daytime wetting after the age of toilet training can be due to a different problem than bedwetting alone and it is not considered a typical part of growing up. Many factors can contribute to the persistence of daytime urine accidents and each child must be evaluated and treated on an individual basis.

Daytime wetting is most often due to a functional disorder of the bladder or bowel but also can be caused by a physical abnormality or a neurologic problem (spina bifida, spinal cord injury, etc.). It may be beneficial for children with persistent daytime wetting to be evaluated by a specialist to rule out any of these conditions.

What you can do if your child is wetting the bed

Bedwetting at any age in association with urinary tract infections, daytime wetting, painful urination or frequent urination may indicate an underlying urologic problem. Talk with our pediatric urologist if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms.

Even though most children who wet the bed are healthy from a medical standpoint, the social costs of bedwetting begin to rise over time. Washing sheets and replacing mattresses can also get expensive and be time-consuming.

Children who wet the bed may feel embarrassed around their siblings or peers and be hesitant to go to sleepovers or overnight camps. If bedwetting begins to take an emotional toll on your child, it may be worthwhile to consider treatment options.

Remember that it is not your child’s fault! Staying positive and supporting your child is one of the most important things you can do as a parent or guardian.

Learn more about CHoR's bedwetting program

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