ADHD, Autism, and Bedwetting: What You Need To Know

Jun 14, 2023 | 10 minutes Read

011_GDN_Blog_ADHD_Autism & Bedwetting

Bedwetting, also known as nighttime wetting, incontinence, or nocturnal enuresis, is a medical condition that can affect any child. It happens when a child, who is five years or older, is unable to control their bladder, and urinates at night during their sleep. Therefore, your child is NOT wetting the bed on purpose or consciously!

For some kids, bedwetting may be an unavoidable part of growing up, and it can even last through their teenage years. While it can be embarrassing and stressful, it's important to remember that bedwetting is common – 1 in 6 kids experience it.

In general, children with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as Autism and/or ADHD are more often affected by bedwetting than typically developing children according to a study in the Journal of Pediatric Urology. In Goodnites’ proprietary Bedwetting Diary Study, we discovered 1 in 10 bedwetters has a disability, and found ADHD and Autism were the most prevalent.

The 2 Types of Bedwetting

  • Primary bedwetting happens when young children are not able to control their bladder from infancy, and continue to wet the bed at least once or twice a week through primary school.
  • Secondary bedwetting, also known as secondary enuresis, makes up about 25% of all bedwetting cases. It happens when a child is able to control their bladder, goes at least 6 months without an accident, then starts bedwetting again. Because secondary bedwetting is often unexpected, it can add extra stress for the entire family.

The Link Between ADHD, Autism, and Bedwetting

Studies have shown that kids with Autism and/or ADHD are more likely to experience bedwetting than their neurotypical (or typically developing) peers. The connection between ADHD, Autism, and bedwetting is not fully understood by medical professionals.
However, researchers believe bedwetting that occurs in any child may be related to a combination of factors, including: 

  • Reduced bladder capacity
  • Increased production of urine at night
  • Reduced sensitivity to the urge to urinate
  • Difficulty with self-regulation and sleep disturbances
  • Sensitivity to sensory stimuli, including the feeling of a full bladder

It's important for parents and caregivers to be patient and understanding with any child experiencing bedwetting. Punishing, shaming, or yelling at your child for bedwetting is not helpful, and can actually make the problem worse. Instead, explain that it is NOT their fault.

How Bedwetting Affects Kids with Autism and ADHD

The impact of bedwetting goes far beyond wet sheets and extra laundry. Unfortunately, there is so much shame, secrecy, and fear of judgment surrounding bedwetting, for both parents/caregivers and children.

To better understand the experience of families of kids with Autism and/or ADHD who are experiencing bedwetting, we conducted a survey with 1000 U.S. parents of 3–17-year-old kids with Autism and/or ADHD who were experiencing bedwetting. The research found that bedwetting takes a physical and emotional toll on the entire family, not just on the child, in a few major ways:

  • Lack of Sleep: 43% of families reported that their child with Autism and/or ADHD lost sleep due to bedwetting, and over half of the parents experienced consistent loss of sleep themselves.
  • Increased Stress and Anxiety: Kids feel embarrassed and ashamed with 38% of parents/caregivers reporting bedwetting has lowered their child’s self-esteem, while 41% say it has increased their anxiety. Parents/caregivers are also feeling the stress of being unable to help their child. 60% of parents reported increased anxiety, 58% feel helpless, and half say they feel like bad parents.
  • Family and Relationship Strain: Bedwetting requires so much focus and attention that 56% of parents say they have experienced family strain due to it, while 4 out of 5 parents admit to prioritizing their child who is experiencing bedwetting over the needs of others in the home.
  • Missed Activities: Parents/caregivers of kids with Autism and/or ADHD say bedwetting gets in the way of childhood memories and regular nighttime routines. 45% reported it has limited family vacations, and 2 out of 3 kids have missed out on sleepovers with their friends.
  • Judgment and Stigmatization: Because of the bedwetting stigma nearly half of parents/caregivers of kids with Autism and/or ADHD in our study reported they are concerned that they or their child will be judged. And they don’t have anyone to turn to for advice. 71% of parents/caregivers feel their friends don’t understand what they’re going through, 65% feel misunderstood by extended family, and 35% feel that other parents/caregivers of children with Autism or ADHD don’t understand their challenges.

 We hope that our research makes you realize you are doing nothing wrong, and you are not alone.

How Long Does Bedwetting Last?

While every child is different, bedwetting lasts about 4 years on average, and may last longer for children with disabilities. But it won’t last forever. Children tend to grow out of bedwetting. In fact, around 97% of children will grow out of bedwetting by the age of 12, so most cases are nothing to worry about, and simply require extra love and support.

What Can I Do to Help with Bedwetting?

Because bedwetting can take an emotional toll on the entire family, causing increased stress and anxiety, and negatively impacting your child’s self-esteem and confidence, it’s important to continue to provide additional reassurance and support during this time.

  • Talk about it: Talk to your child and explain that bedwetting is very common, and something they’ll eventually grow out of. Read books or share information about bedwetting to help them feel more in control of what they’re going through. Talk to friends, family members, or a doctor when you feel comfortable doing so. Try using some of the research in this article as a jumping off point, so you’re equipped with facts to help others understand what you and your child are going through.
  • Be supportive: Never punish your child for wetting the bed, as they’re not doing this on purpose. It’s a common misconception that bedwetting is a behavioral issue, but your child isn’t doing anything wrong. Punishments can lead to greater feelings of shame, anxiety, and confusion. The best thing you can do is continue to be supportive and boost their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Try absorbent, disposable bedwetting products: Bedwetting underwear can help reduce stress and make it easier for both you and your child. Only Goodnites® Bedwetting Underwear holds three water bottles* and has 35% better leakage protection** to help your kid wake up dry.
  • Start a Bedtime Routine: 79% of families reported having a bedtime routine to prevent bedwetting, including using sensory lighting and sound machines to help their children fall asleep more easily. Incorporate the bedwetting underwear as part of your routine. Goodnites® bedwetting underwear are clinically proven for a better night’s sleep*** which hopefully means more ZZZ’s for the whole family.

Don’t let bedwetting stand in the way of you and your family having an awesome day together. It is not going to go away overnight, but dry sheets can be the start to a better day for the whole family. 


*Size Boy XL. Three 8 oz. Water bottles, 24 oz. total. Among national brands

**Boy Large vs. Ninjamas Boy Large

***vs not using absorbent underwear