Bedwetting (or enuresis) occurs when somebody involuntarily urinates during sleep. In most cases bedwetting is not the cause of a more serious underlying medical condition and wetting the bed is common in children. According to the National Sleep Foundation, five to seven million children in the United States experience unintentional passage of urine during sleep.
When to Be Worried
Parents believe that if their child achieved daytime dryness they should automatically stay dry during the night. Therefore, when bedwetting occurs, parents get concerned and seek treatment. However, being able to have control over the bladder during the night is the last stage in potty training, and some kids achieve full bladder control at a later date.
As a general rule of thumb, pediatricians do not recommend doing anything to address bedwetting in children younger than 6 years old. However, if the child is older, treatment may be taking into consideration, but only if it becomes a problem (eg: frustrated parents, child complaints about the issue, etc...).
In most cases, bedwetting will eventually go away without any medical treatment. According to Dr.Preston Smith`s findings, 70% of children will stop wetting the bed by the age of 11 and 99% will no longer experience bedwetting by the time they turn 15.
What Causes Bedwetting
Some of the most common causes that lead to bedwetting in children include:
- Late development of the nervous system and bladder control. In this case, bedwetting occurs when children do not recognize their bladder if full.
- Hereditary factors. Studies show that genetics also play an important role when it comes to bedwetting causes. This study shows that if one parent was a bedwetter, there is a 44% chance the children will also wet the bed. If both parents had a history of bedwetting, there is a 77% chance their children will also experience the condition.
- Small bladder capacity. Much like weight and height, the size of the bladder is different in every child. The smaller the bladder, the higher the chances of wetting the bed.
- Emotional distress. Bedwetting can occur when children experience change or stress (moving to a new house, starting school, parents divorcing, etc...). In some rare cases, children who experience unintentional passage of urine during night may have deeper emotional issues. If this is the case, watch out for other symptoms and consult with a pediatrician as soon as possible.
- Constipation. Dr. Steve J. Hodged, MD found that constipation also leads to bedwetting: ``30 consecutive children and adolescents who sought treatment for bedwetting all had large amounts of stool in their rectums, despite the majority having normal bowel habits. After treatment with laxative therapy, 25 of the children (83 percent) were cured of bedwetting within three months``
There are several ways to address bedwetting in children and some of the most traditional and common ways include:
- Outgrowing bedwetting. Since 99% of kids will outgrow bedwetting by the time they turn 15, waiting is a viable option. However, this may take years, so parents need to plan accordingly. They should be prepared to wash sheets and pyjamas for an extended period of time. Depending on the child`s age, adult pull-ups should be taking into consideration. Also, parents should address certain social situations where bedwetting may cause embarrassment (sleepovers, going camping, etc...).
- Bedwetting alarms. A study shows there was a 66% improvement in children that used a bedwetting alarm for 14 nights vs 4% for those who did not use an alarm. Bedwetting alarms are devices that detect urine and have been available for a long time. A bedwetting alarm will notify the child (or the parent) by a beeping sound and a flashing LED whenever the sensor is exposed to urine. The sensor is either attached to the underwear of the child or sewed directly into a pad (which is placed under the child). The biggest disadvantage of using a bedwetting alarm is the fact that it can take months to successfully treat bedwetting. For a list of popular bedwetting alarm brands see thiscomparison chart.
- Medication. Desmopressin Acetate (DDAVP), Imipramine and Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL) are the most popular drugs used to correct bedwetting. All three are relatively safe. However, drugs only offer temporary relief and do not actually cure bedwetting. Therefore, medication should only be used a last resort, or in certain social situations.
About the author: Nick Zara is the founder of BedwettingFoundation and offers advice on how to prevent, diagnose and cure bedwetting in children