What Is Bedwetting?
the loss of bladder control during the night. The medical term for bedwetting
is nocturnal (night time)
enuresis. Bedwetting can be an embarrassing issue, but in many cases, it’s
Bedwetting is a normal developmental stage for some children,
but it can be a symptom of underlying illness or disease in adults. About 2
percent of adults suffer from bedwetting, according to the National Association for Continence.
Causes of Bedwetting
Physical and psychological conditions can lead to bedwetting
in some people. Common causes of bedwetting among children and adults include:
- small bladder size
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- stress, fear, or insecurity
- neurological disorders (e.g.: post-stroke)
- prostate gland enlargement
- sleep apnea (abnormal pauses in breathing during
Hormonal imbalances can also cause bedwetting in some people.
Everyone’s body makes a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH tells your body to slow down
the production of urine overnight. The lower volume of urine helps a normal
bladder hold urine overnight. People whose bodies don’t make sufficient levels
of ADH may experience nocturnal enuresis because their bladders can’t hold higher
volumes of urine.
Diabetes is another disorder that can cause bedwetting. The
bodies of people with diabetes don’t process glucose (sugar) properly and may produce larger amounts of
urine. The increase in urine production can cause children and adults who normally
stay dry overnight to wet the bed.
Risk Factors for Bedwetting
Gender and genetics are among the risk factors for bedwetting.
Both boys and girls may experience episodes of nocturnal enuresis during early
childhood. Boys are more likely to wet the bed when they get older.
Family history plays a role, too. You’re more
likely to wet the bed if a parent, sibling, or other family member has had
the same issue.
Bedwetting is also more common among children diagnosed with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers don’t yet fully
understand the relationship between bedwetting and ADHD.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Bedwetting
Certain lifestyle changes may help end bedwetting. Setting limits
on fluid intake plays a large part in controlling bedwetting. Try not to drink
water or other liquids within a few hours of bedtime to reduce the risk of
having an accident. Drink the majority of your daily fluid requirements before
dinnertime. This will ensure that your bladder is relatively empty before
You should also cut out caffeinated or alcoholic drinks in the
evening. Caffeine and alcohol are bladder irritants and diuretics. That means they’ll
cause you to urinate more.
Devise a voiding schedule to help you stay dry overnight. A voiding schedule simply means
that you urinate on a regular timetable, such as every 1 to 2 hours. Use the
bathroom right before you go to bed to empty your bladder fully before sleep.
Bedwetting can sometimes occur during a stressful event in a
young person’s life. Conflict at home or school may cause your child to have
nightly accidents. The birth of a sibling, moving to a new home, or another
change in routine can be stressful to children and may trigger bedwetting
Talk to your child about how they’re feeling. Understanding and
compassion can help your child feel better about their situation, which can put
an end to bedwetting in many cases.
Refrain from punishing bedwetting incidents. Praise your child
when they stay dry. This will help them feel good about not wetting the bed.
Medical Treatment for Bedwetting
Bedwetting that stems from a medical condition requires treatment
beyond just lifestyle adjustments. Medications can treat a variety of
conditions of which bedwetting is a symptom. For example:
- Antibiotics can eliminate UTIs.
- Anticholinergic drugs can calm an irritated
- Eesmopressin acetate increases levels of ADH to
slow nighttime urine production.
- DHT-blocking medications reduce swelling of the
It’s also important to control chronic conditions, such as
diabetes and sleep apnea. Bedwetting associated with underlying medical issues
will likely resolve with proper management.
Outlook for Bedwetting
Most children outgrow bedwetting by about 7 years old. By
this age, bladder control is stronger and more fully developed. Lifestyle
changes, medical treatment, and support from family and friends can help
children and adults overcome bedwetting.