Bedwetting, which is also called nocturnal enuresis or night time incontinence, refers to the bladder emptying during sleep. It is quite common and affects as many as 1 in 5 children in Australia. Every child is different and that age at which they become able to control their bladders at night varies. Bedwetting is most common before the age of 7 and while doctors don’t consider it to be very concerning when it happens in early childhood, it doesn’t make it any less upsetting for children or parents dealing with it.
It can take a toll on a child’s self-esteem and cause them feelings of embarrassment. Sleeping in soggy sheets and pyjamas is uncomfortable and can prevent a child from getting enough sleep. It can also lead to rashes and irritation of the bottom and genitals area if the child sleeps in wet bottoms. Bedwetting can be equally upsetting for parents who often worry that they’ve not potty-trained their child properly or that there is an underlying medical condition causing their child to wet the bed. To further frustrate parents, there is the issue of extra laundry and the associated work and cost. Parents may also lose sleep if the child wakes them up during the night to change their pyjamas and sheets.
Bed Wetting Causes
There are several misconceptions about what actually causes bedwetting. Some are quick to assume that it stems from laziness or unusual immaturity, while others blame poor behaviour, which is not the case. Contrary to popular belief, bedwetting is also not caused by drinking too much before bed.
Inability to waken when the bladder is full
Overactive bladder at night that stops the bladder from being able to hold urine
Kidneys that produce large amounts of urine at night that the bladder can’t hold
In most cases, bedwetting, while frustrating, is not a sign of an underlying medical condition. However, some illnesses can cause bedwetting, including:
Urinary Tract Infection
Defect of the Urinary Tract
Again, it’s important to stress that most children who wet the bed are not suffering from a medical condition.
When to Seek Help
Although bedwetting is very common in children, the Continence Foundation of Australia recommends seeking help if:
Your child has suddenly started wetting the bed after being dry for some time
The wetting occurs frequently in a child of school age
The wetting is taking an obvious toll on your child, making them upset or angry
Your child has asked for help and shown a desire to get dry
Speak to your doctor for a referral to a professional who has special training in children’s bladders.
There are several things that you can do at home to treat bedwetting. Some possible solutions for bedwetting include:
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine that includes going to the bathroom
Encouraging your child with a reward system for staying dry, such as stickers or a treat for a dry night.
Waking your child to go to the bathroom during the night before the time that they usually wet themselves.
Bedwetting alarms, which conditions the child to become of aware of the sensation of a full bladder by waking them when they wet the bed. Used over time, these alarms can be very successful in treating bedwetting.
A doctor may also prescribe a medication to treat an overactive bladder or limit the amount of urine produced through the night.
Tips for Using Bedwetting Alarms With Kids That Are Heavy Sleepers
For kids that are deep sleepers, a bedwetting alarm, while loud, may not wake your child initially. Many parents often think ‘do bedwetting alarms work?’ when their child doesn’t respond to the alarm. This presents a challenge, but one that can be overcome working closely with your child.
By establishing a structured program, such as the one outlined below, with lots of love, encouragement and support your child will begin to progress to associate the alarm with bedwetting and the need to wake up and use the toilet.
There are products that you can use alongside treatment to help your child to better cope with bedwetting. These include:
Disposable absorbent underpants to soak up urine
Waterproof sheet protectors that can be easily changed when an accident happens as opposed to changing the sheets
Sleeping bag liners for easy and discreet cleanup when sleeping away from home
Along with using the products mentioned to help keep your child comfortable, it is also important that you treat your child’s bedwetting with patience and understanding. They are not wetting the bed on purpose and can feel extremely helpless and vulnerable.
In order to help them feel more control over the situation, you can allow them to take responsibility for bedwetting by rinsing their wet underpants or pyjamas or placing them in a specific container for washing. Some children cope better when they feel like they are doing something about it.