What is bedwetting?
Bedwetting is described as intermittent incontinence while sleeping.
It is common and can be a distressing condition that can have a deep impact on a child’s or young person’s behaviour, emotional wellbeing and social life.
There are solutions to help a child or young person to try and tackle bedwetting. Some of these are as simple as monitoring the types and amount of fluid a child is drinking per day.
If the issue persists then a nurse or GP may recommend using an alarm at night or taking medication which reduces the amount of urine produced in the bladder.
The technical term for bedwetting is: Nocturnal Enuresis
It is estimated that 500,000 children aged between 5 and 16 regularly wet the bed in the UK.
The likelihood of bedwetting decreases as children get older.
Why do children wet the bed?
Bedwetting happens when there is no conscious awareness during sleep that they might need the toilet. It could be down to one of the following reasons:
- Lack of a hormone called vasopressin. This regulates the amount of urine produced by the body during the night. If there is not enough, the kidneys continue to produce large amounts of urine which the bladder can’t hold.
- An over active bladder. Children may experience the need to go to the toilet urgently and frequently. This happens when the muscles in the bladder contract before it is full and this can happen during the night.
- A full bowel. If the bowel is full it can press against the bladder resulting in bedwetting at night.
- A Urinary Tract Infection. This can give a feeling of always needing the toilet and can cause discomfort
- Anxiety, stress or changes in routine. Events like starting school, the birth of a new sibling, exams and/or bullying can delay a child becoming dry at night or can cause bedwetting in a child who had previously been dry.
The good news is that for most children, something can be done to help identify, manage and resolve these possible causes.
What can you do to help stop bedwetting?
In addition to treatments to tackle the problem, there are practical things you can do to help your child:
- Ensure your child is drinking at least six water based drinks (avoid caffeinated drinks), spread evenly throughout the day and they go to the toilet regularly
- Ensure they go to the toilet before they to go sleep at night and can get to the toilet easily in the night. A night light and/or leaving the bedroom and bathroom doors open may encourage the child to go.
- Embedding a winding down routine with your child before they go to sleep is important. For example, a bath or shower and then some relaxed time or reading.
- It is important that your child has a ‘change of light’ when going to sleep. Sleeping in a dark room and ensuring they don’t fall asleep with the television on ensures they wind down before falling asleep. Winding down releases vasopressin, which will regulate your child’s production of urine during the night.
- As a parent or guardian, you must remain calm, positive and support your child through this time.
- If bedwetting persists, your GP or nurse may be able to offer you medication or an alarm to assist.
- Ensure your child is actively engaged in decisions about their treatments.
Norman’s bedtime adventures
We have put together a short animation with Norman the Bear to help your little ones through bedwetting as we know it can be upsetting and stressful for children and parents.
Watch Norman here: