What is bedwetting?

Bedwetting, also called nocturnal enuresis, is when a person is not able to hold their urine overnight resulting in a urinary accident while they are sleeping. It is considered normal in children until 5 years of age. Bedwetting is a very common condition in children, affecting as many as 15-20 percent of all 5-year-olds and even 5 percent of all 10-year-olds. It is more common in boys than in girls. It often runs in families.

What are the signs and symptoms of bedwetting?

The main symptom of bedwetting is when a child age 5 or older wets their bed at night on a routine basis, at least once or twice a month. Most children with bedwetting can hold their urine while awake, though some children also have some daytime wetting. Bedwetting can begin at any time, some children may start to wet the bed after staying dry at night for a period of 6 months or longer. Many children with bedwetting are described as “deep sleepers.”

What causes bedwetting?

There are several reasons for bedwetting. Some possible causes may include:

  • Genetics. Bedwetting often runs in families. Children of parents who wet the bed in childhood are more prone to bedwetting.
  • Sleep patterns. Children who are a very heavy sleepers may be more likely to have a problem with bedwetting.
  • A delay in hormone production. The hormone vasopressin slows down the production of urine at night. Some children don’t start producing this hormone until they are older.
  • Anxiety. Stressful events can trigger bedwetting in children.
  • Constipation. Children that have difficulty passing bowel movements or are not regular of bowel movements may hold less urine in their bladder.

How is bedwetting treated?

In many cases, bedwetting gets better over time without treatment. However, some children are embarrassed by their bedwetting, preventing them from normal activities, such as sleepovers or camp. For some families, the financial burden of mattresses or overnight briefs (such as pull ups) is a concern. The urology team at Arkansas Children’s can help you come up with the best treatment plan for your child.

Treatment options may include:

  • Positive reinforcement, such as a sticker chart
  • Drinking less fluids later in the day
  • Urinating on a schedule during the day
  • Treating constipation
  • Taking bedwetting or bladder medications
  • Alarm therapies

We understand how stressful night wetting can be for you and your child. We will work with you to find the best treatment plan for your family and will continue to follow your child in our clinic to maximize dry nights.