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Advice for Parents

Catch Some Zs! Getting to Sleep despite Bedwetting

If you're like most parents, bedtime can be a struggle: a struggle to get kids settled down at a reasonable time, a struggle to make sure everyone in the family gets enough sleep and a struggle to work around obstacles such as bedwetting (or nighttime wetting) while trying to ensure kids are well rested in the morning.

According to a study conducted in 2004 by the GoodNites® brand, based on an online survey conducted by Impulse Research Corporation, nearly two-thirds of the parents surveyed said their children sometimes have a difficult time winding down and getting to sleep at night. And for parents of kids who wet the bed, getting kids to sleep is only half the battle. So what can you do if interruptions such as nighttime wetting are preventing you and your child from getting enough rest?

Most of us are aware that sleep is important. But why is it important? And how much should kids be getting at night?

A Wake-Up Call to Parents

"Sleep is a basic need to enable all aspects of functioning, such as emotional regulation, behavior control, motivation, attention, memory and learning," says Dr. Tracy Kuo, staff psychologist at The Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic. "Sleep-deprived children are not ready to learn and are not in optimal condition to regulate their behavior and mood."

According to Dr. Kuo, children ages 6 to 10 need about 10 hours of sleep a night. Interruptions to these hours of sleep can be detrimental to your child. "Uninterrupted sleep means that children will avoid common sleep loss effects such as daytime drowsiness, irritability and difficulty focusing and concentrating," says Dr. Clete A. Kushida, director of the Stanford University Center for Human Sleep Research.

Evaluate your child's behavior to see if interruptions such as nighttime wetting might be preventing him from getting enough sleep. Dr. Kuo says to look for difficulty waking in the morning to go to school and/or being sleepy and lethargic at school. "Some kids' [behavior] can manifest [as] inattention, impulsivity, irritability and hyperactivity," she says. In addition, if you notice your child takes a nap after school, sleeps late on the weekends or becomes drowsy while riding in the car, he may require more sleep on a daily basis.

For children who wet the bed, just hitting the sack earlier may not be enough to ensure a proper night's rest. Nighttime wetting is a particularly challenging interruption to a good night of sleep because children are not able to control this condition. According to the GoodNites® brand study, less than half of parents can identify the leading causes of nighttime wetting. Some parents think their children just don't want to get up in time to avoid wetting the bed or that they are drinking too much before bed. Nighttime wetting is actually often caused by an underdeveloped bladder, or the child may have inherited the condition from one of his parents.

Terri, a mom of two young boys in Cupertino, CA, has tried limiting her son's fluid intake before bed to help him avoid accidents at night. "My son has milk with dinner and a sip of water after he brushes his teeth," she says. "That is all he gets to drink after six o'clock." However, he still wets at night despite their efforts.

Because there may be little your child can do to avoid wetting the bed, a positive step toward making sure he gets enough rest is to find ways to make nighttime wetting manageable. In the past, Terri tried getting up in the night to take her 4-year-old son to the bathroom before he had a chance to wet the bed, but he was difficult to awaken. "Sleep is very important to our family," Terri says. "There is a huge difference in myself as well as my children when we don't get enough sleep."

Constantly waking your child in the night to take her to the bathroom not only interrupts your child's sleep, but your sleep, too! Terri and many other parents have found less stressful ways of dealing with nighttime wetting, including using absorbent products and mattress protectors.

For now, Terri's son wears a nighttime garment. Using absorbent products such as GoodNites® NightTime Underwear can help your child stay dry through the night and help you avoid getting up to change his pajamas or sheets, which helps everyone sleep through the night. Protective waterproof sheets, such as GoodNites® Bed Mats, covering his mattress also can help.

Falling Back to Sleep

When your child does wake up in the night, make sure getting back to sleep is as speedy as possible by first responding to his immediate need (changing his bed or helping him to the bathroom and comforting him if necessary), then help him relax by following a familiar routine. For instance, if your child falls asleep to a particular sound or music, play that for him with the lights off, keeping the setting as calm as possible.

"Don't tell [your] child to try harder when he can't sleep," says Dr. Kuo. "Trying is an awake activity. [It creates] cognitive and emotional arousal, [which are] sleep-incompatible."

Making sure your child gets enough sleep is an ongoing challenge. Talk to your doctor or other parents about ways you can make this time manageable for both of you. And take heart that this stage won't last forever — most kids outgrow nighttime wetting by age 10.

Sleepy Time

Parents are key when it comes to children getting all the sleep they need. Here are a few habits to share with your children at bedtime that will help both of you get some sleep at night:

  • Set a good example. "Kids learn from their parents," says Dr. Tracy Kuo, staff psychologist at The Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic. "Parents need to practice meeting their own sleep needs on a regular basis."
  • Make sleep a priority. "Given … an over-scheduled, highly hectic lifestyle, time is the most [limited] resource," Dr. Kuo says. "[Provide] protected time for sleep. Choose not to let other activities squeeze into time for sleep."
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule.

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