Bedwetting, also known as nighttime wetting or nocturnal enuresis, is when a child beyond age 5 isn’t able to control their bladder and urinates at night during their sleep.
There are a variety of bedwetting causes including:
- Being a deep sleeper. Your child may not feel the need to pee or find it difficult to wake up.
- Producing too much urine during the night.
- Having a small or “irritable” bladder. Your child’s bladder may contract too easily, or the nerves that control the bladder may be slow to mature.
- Genetics. Sometimes bedwetting runs in families. If you, your parents, or your siblings had issues with bedwetting, it’s not surprising that your child is also wetting the bed. If one parent wet the bed after 5 years old, their children have about 40% chance of bedwetting. If both parents wet the bed as children, their children have about a 70% chance of bedwetting.
- A medical condition. A urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation, bladder or kidney disease, a structural problem in the urinary system or nervous system, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, hormone imbalance, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), stress or anxiety could be causing bedwetting.
- While a doctor might recommend cutting out sugary drinks before bed or making sure your child uses the toilet right before going to sleep, in general bedwetting isn’t something that can be stopped before it goes away naturally. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t train a kid out of bedwetting or control it by restricting fluids. There are steps you can take in the meantime:
- Support your child. For many, their self-esteem can easily get tied up in their ability to stay dry at night. That’s why it’s important to help them when an accident happens without frustration. A little bit of patience will go a long way – after all, you’re in this together!
- Ensure they have an appropriate support network in their closest friends and family.
- Provide supportive bedwetting supplies, like Goodnites® NightTime Underwear.
- Talk to your child about how these supplies can help.
- Ensure their pediatrist is aware of and monitoring NightTime wetting, especially if it’s consistent.
Most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own — but some need a little help. In other cases, bed-wetting may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs medical attention.
Make an appointment with your primary care provider or pediatrician if one or more of the following is applicable for your child:
- Is 5 years old or older and suddenly starts to wet the bed 2-3 times a week after they have not wet the bed for at least 6 months.
- Has daytime peeing accidents.
- Is 7 years old or older and is still wetting the bed.
- Snores and/or has pauses or gasps in breathing in their sleep.
- Complains of a burning sensation or pain when peeing, has to pee more often, is drinking or thirstier more often, and/or has pink or red urine or discharge.
- Has swelling of their feet or ankles.
- Complains of belly aches or back pains.
- Is having poop accidents.
A pediatric urologist specializes in children’s urinary and genital problems, including bedwetting. Your primary care physician or pediatrician can also help direct you towards the right resources.
Yes, boys are more likely to wet the bed than girls. According to Mayo Clinic, bed wetting is twice as common in boys as in girls.
Nighttime bedwetting usually has a strong genetic link. While specific experiences may vary, it’s very common for bedwetting to run in the family. Dr. Carolyn Thiedke, professor of family medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, says, “There are probably several causes of bedwetting, but it is clear that having parents who wet the bed makes it more likely that a child will wet the bed. Children who have one parent who wet the bed have a 43% chance of wetting the bed, and if both parents wet the bed, the chance climbs to 77%.
However, passing on nighttime wetting genes to your children is not a simple process — or all bad. Researchers at UCLA have discovered that parents who pass on nighttime wetting to their kids are also often passing on intelligence. Their study of children with a family history of bedwetting found that children who had a lower than normal impulse to wake up when needing to urinate (often resulting in nighttime wetting) also had higher than normal IQ scores."
Psychological stress and anxiety in and of themselves will not cause a child who never wet the bed to start nighttime wetting. However, stress can contribute indirectly to nighttime wetting as it can cause a child to behave or act differently. Children under a lot of stress may not sleep well. They may have difficulty falling asleep, resulting in fewer hours of sleep at night. Because of this, they may fall into a deeper sleep, which can result in nighttime wetting. Keep in mind that it’s the change in the child’s behavior caused by stress, and not the actual stress, that is contributing to them wetting the bed.
Unlike potty training which can be taught to children, bedwetting is almost completely biological and nighttime dryness arrives when bedwetting goes away naturally. Nighttime dryness is a totally different process than daytime potty training and typically lags by at least 4-6 months, if not a few years.
Here’s a simple process for how to clean a mattress after bedwetting and how to remove urine odor from a mattress. These three steps make it easy with everyday household ingredients:
- Blot the urine spot. Using a dry towel, press down repeatedly to soak up the urine. Be sure you blot instead of wiping. Wiping will just push the urine deeper into the mattress — and that will make clean up a lot tougher. Some people who have a wet/dry vacuum use it to suck out the moisture as well.
- Mix up a simple cleaning solution. You can skip the fancy cleaning products and find what you need right in your kitchen: white vinegar and warm water. Mix it up 50/50 and use a spray bottle to apply it to your mattress. Then blot the mattress again with a towel. You might have to repeat this process for a bigger (or smellier!) spot. Of course, vinegar has a strong smell too, so opening a window or turning on a ceiling fan can be a smart idea.
- Neutralize the urine smell. Once you’ve cleaned up the spot, sprinkle on some baking soda. Leave it there overnight as the mattress finishes drying (the longer the better – aim for about 10 hours!). Then, vacuum the baking soda up the next day. This should eliminate any urine smell from your child’s mattress. If you can still smell the urea after one treatment, repeat the process. While some people may try using a scented product, keep in mind that they only cover up the urine smell for a short time. They won’t make it go away. So, while the recommended cleaning process takes some time, following the above steps is a better solution for getting rid of a pee smell.
For more information, please check out this article on cleaning urine from a mattress
According to National Kidney Foundation, “enuresis" is the medical term for bedwetting. Nocturnal (nighttime) enuresis is bedwetting that happens at night, whereas wetting during the daytime is called diurnal (daytime) enuresis.
Bedwetting, also known as nighttime wetting or nocturnal enuresis, is when children beyond age 5 are unable to control their bladder and urinates at night during their sleep.