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Advice for Parents

Can Stress and Anxiety Play A Role In Bedwetting?

Poor grades in a school, a move to a new town, rejection from a team or club, or an illness in the family are just some of the major stressors children may experience growing up. These situation may affect how kids feel about themselves and how they cope on a day to day basis.

Parents of children who still wet the bed often wonder if stress is what's causing their child's nighttime wetting. According to medical journals and urologists, that's probably not the cause. The feeling seems to be that bedwetting — also known as nighttime wetting — is genetic (it runs in families) and that the signals between the brain, nerves and muscles of the bladder haven't matured yet. Over time, as the bladder grows and muscles strengthen, nighttime wetting most often resolves on its own.

However, stress can contribute indirectly to nighttime wetting.

Emotional and psychological stress can cause a child to behave or act differently, which can lead to nighttime wetting. It's the change in the child's behavior caused by stress and not the actual stress that contributes to nighttime wetting.

So if your child is mostly dry at night but then starts experiencing more frequent nighttime wetting, check not only if a medical reasons such as an infection or diabetes is the culprit but also if his behaviors have changed due to a new stress in his life.

For example, 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.

It's not just sleep patterns that get disturbed when your child is stressed. Her daytime routines such as eating and bathroom habits also can get thrown off. A stressed or emotional child may be less likely to follow the house rules such as using the toilet before going to sleep. In addition, kids may be more prone to eat sugary or salty foods in an effort to soothe themselves from whatever may be bothering them. This unhealthy coping strategy can lead to more thirst, more fluid intake, fluid retention and ultimately more nighttime accidents.

It is really important that you deal with the underlying cause of your child's stress in an understanding and supportive way. You should also help your child maintain his daily habits and routines even if he is resistant. In addition, it may be helpful to connect with other families in the same situation.

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