In younger children, occasional bedwetting accidents are normal and to be expected. Once your son or daughter is fully potty-trained, you hope that they can avoid nighttime wetting.
For most kids, staying dry through the night is achieved between the ages of 3 and 5. However, this may not always be the case, and bed wetting in children can become a source of concern for both you and your child as they get older.
At what age are kids too old to be wetting the bed? If they continue to be plagued by soggy sheets at night, what can you as a parent do to help them overcome this distressing situation? This article answers why kids wet the bed and gives tips to help guide your child to dry nights.
Enuresis in children
Enuresis is the medical term for bed wetting. Nighttime wetting, medically termed nocturnal enuresis, is a very common problem in children.
In fact, renowned pediatric medical expert Dr. Sears gives the following statistics pertaining to enuresis in children:
- 15% of 5-year-olds, or around 3-4 first-graders, are not dry every night.
- 85% of children eventually outgrow bedwetting without treatment.
- In the teenage years, only 2%-5% of children continue to wet their beds.
- Bed-wetting boys outnumber girls by a ratio of 4 to 1.
Now that you know some facts, read on to discover why your child may be wetting the bed. The answer may surprise you.
Why do children wet the bed?
Aside from the obvious problem of drinking too much fluid right before sleep, what causes children to wet the bed? You can take partial blame for creating this problem as genetics play a part in this nocturnal habit. If your child has a parent who was a bed wetter, then they may follow in your footsteps.
Contrary to popular belief, nocturnal enuresis in children isn’t typically caused by emotional or psychological problems. Nor is it due to family dysfunction in general. However, temporary bed wetting can occur if your child is experiencing an emotional event, such as a significant life change.
So, you can breathe a sigh of relief that your family life and your child’s emotional wellbeing are not the cause of nighttime wetting accidents.
The main reason for nocturnal enuresis is simple. Bed wetters have been found to be very deep sleepers. Kids who tend to sleep very soundly simply don’t feel the sensation of a full bladder. This basic fact takes the blame off children. Parents who think that their child should be able to control their bed wetting problem need to know that some kids really can’t help themselves. If you have a very heavy sleeper of a child, they may have a higher tendency to wet the bed.
Bed wetting in boys is more predominant than in girls. Although it may seem that your boy is too lazy to get up at night to use the bathroom, this is typically not the case. The problem in boys is that they tend to sleep deeper and are a little slower to mature physically than girls. Boys potty train later and have more difficulty staying dry in general than girls. Boys also are inclined to hold their urine due to not wanting to stop what they are doing. Not fully emptying their bladder before bed can add to their nighttime difficulties with wetting.
Are there any medical causes for bed wetting in children?
If your son or daughter has been dry at night for an extended period and suddenly begins wetting the bed, you should talk to your physician. A sudden problem with bladder control may signal a medical condition such as diabetes, severe constipation, or a urinary tract infection.
In addition, some children have small bladders or other anatomical problems related to the bladder. Physical urinary system disorders usually present throughout the day in addition to nighttime. Talk to your doctor about wetting and bladder issues if you have any concerns.
Bed wetting in ADHD kids
Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to have more trouble keeping dry while in bed. Research has shown a strong correlation between ADHD and nocturnal enuresis. It’s still unclear why, but some researchers feel that bed wetting and ADHD can go hand-in-hand due to central nervous system delay.
As with boys, kids with ADHD also tend to have a more challenging time recognizing the bodily urge to urinate. Thus, boys with ADHD most certainly have an increased tendency to wet the bed.
At what age should my child stop bed wetting?
Occasional bed wetting before age 5 is considered normal. Once your child is in elementary school, nocturnal enuresis should be improving. As your child gets older, bed wetting incidents should become fewer and fewer.
Bed wetting after age 7 may indicate that you and your child will need to take additional steps to help handle the problem.
The following chart from the National Association for Continence proves that the issue is likely to go away as your child gets older. As you’ll notice, the percentage of kids who wet the bed declines in each subsequent age group:
- 5-year-olds: 20%
- 6-year-olds: 12%
- 7-year-olds: 10%
- 8-year-olds: 7%
- 9-year-olds: 6%
- 10-year-olds: 5%
- 11-year-olds: 4%
- 12-year-olds: 3%
- 13-year-olds: 2.5%
- 14-year-olds: 2%
- 15-year-olds: 1.5%
- 16-year-olds: 1%
So, your child is highly unlikely to be dealing with wet sheets in high school.
Signs of bed wetting in children
You may be familiar with the middle-of-the-night call from your child’s room, alerting you that “I peed my bed!” When this occurs, it’s evident that your child has wet the bed. Other children may be oblivious to the whole event. The signs of nocturnal enuresis are wet sheets and pajamas in the morning.
Some kids may be embarrassed or fear punishment for wetting the bed. In those instances, after a wet night, kids may hide the urine-saturated sheets or PJs in hopes of not getting into trouble.
Children may also reek of urine after wetting the bed. Those who are aware of their odor may take additional showers in the morning to better cover up their problem with wetting.
Bed wetting in teenagers
If your teen is still wetting the bed, a discussion with your pediatrician is necessary. Further medical and perhaps psychological evaluation and treatment are required at this point in the game. Bed wetting in teens will not only add to their emotional stress but may be psychologically damaging as well.
When I was a nurse on an adolescent medical unit, we dealt mainly with children from very unstable backgrounds. Unfortunately, bed wetting was a problem for many of these troubled teens. They received a complete medical examination and psychological evaluation to help formulate a treatment plan to assist with their nocturnal enuresis. Treatment needed to be ongoing and consistent, but I saw them make considerable gains in overcoming their bed wetting.
Home remedies for child bed wetting
There are many tips for handling bed wetting that you, as the parent, can initiate right away.
Start with these pointers to help your child stay dry in bed:
- Cut off fluids 2 hours before bedtime.
- Make sure that your child urinates right before bed. Remind them not to rush the process and to empty their bladder fully.
- Wake your child up to use the toilet when you go to bed or once during the night.
- Cut out caffeine products and sugary foods and drinks (which increase urination) before dinner.
- Avoid embarrassing or shaming your child about bed wetting as stress can exacerbate the problem.
Further treatment and management of bed wetting in kids
If you have tried some of the simple home remedies to stop bed wetting without success, it may be time to have a discussion with your child’s pediatrician about other ways to manage this condition.
Fortunately, your doctor has numerous ways to help solve the problem once your child has been thoroughly evaluated for possible causes.
Some common medically prescribed treatments for bed wetting are:
Bed wetting alarms
These are simple little devices that strap onto your child’s underwear. They sound an alarm and wake your child if they become wet. Your child will eventually “get trained” to wake when they first begin to urinate and will ultimately become conscious of their full bladder sensation. You will need to assist your kid with this process, so beware that you will also be waking up in the night for this program.
Bed wetting alarms have been found effective in eliminating nocturnal enuresis in some kids. As reported on Urologists.org, “According to one study of more than 500 children, 79% of those who used moisture alarms were dry by 10 weeks, and most maintained nighttime bladder control 6 months later.” In my practice, we’ve seen a fairly good success rate for the children using a bed wetting alarm.
At present, there are 2 medications commonly used to treat bed-wetting children. Medication for wetting works by decreasing the amount of urine your body makes. Taken right before bed, it will reduce urine output while you’re sleeping. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, medication management “improves bedwetting in about 40% to 60% of children.”
So, don’t be discouraged if your child is still wetting the bed after you’ve tried your best at-home solutions to handle this issue. Your doctor has some great options that should get your child on the path to dry nights soon.
Do I need a bed wetting alarm for my child?
The chances are that you may want to consider a bed wetting alarm if your attempts at fluid restriction and timing of voiding management haven’t proven successful.After a discussion with your doctor, you will most likely be given 2 choices for treatment; medication for your child or a bed wetting alarm (or a combination of both).
If you decide to try a bed wetting alarm, choosing one may be a bit confusing. Here’s a little help in picking a product best suited for your child.
Top 5 bed wetting alarms and alarm pads on Amazon
Below are the top-rated bed wetting alarms and pads on Amazon, where you can find a wide variety of such products. Some of the highest-rated products are even surprisingly inexpensive.
1. Wet-Stop3 Kit
Wet-Stop3 Kit combines a bed wetting alarm and a waterproof bed pad in one package. The alarm features a vibration alert with 6 various tones.
Reward stickers to go along with a training book make this alarm system a complete solution for proven success.
As the highest-rated bed wetting alarm system, TheraPee offers a total system approach. The package includes a state-of-the-art alarm and a pad along with videos and interactive software to assist you and your child in a proven bladder training program.
Since this is marketed as “The world’s #1 bed wetting solution,” you pay for expertise and a successful track record: TheraPee comes with a higher price tag than most other bed wetting alarms and pads.
This popular bed wetting alarm is an affordable option. DryEasy is user-friendly and has an adjustable volume and tone control to help alert even the soundest sleeper.
4. DryBuddyFLEX 3
A mid-priced option, the DryBuddyFlex3 wireless bed wetting alarm is sure to wake any sound sleeper with the “loudest sound and vibration” of any bed wetting system. In addition, this wireless product makes sleep more comfortable without the inconvenience of wires that other alarms require.
Recommended by doctors and pediatricians worldwide, Malem has won numerous awards and has been proven in clinical trials to rank as a top choice for bed wetting alarms.
In addition to the typical vibration and sound modes, this model also adds light to help rouse the sleeper wearing the alarm. Several fun colors to choose from complete the unique package that Malem offers.
Reasonably priced, this acclaimed bed wetting system is a great choice to help your little one stay dry at night.
While bed wetting can be annoying and occasionally concerning for parents, it is quite an embarrassing and stressful condition for most older kids. Keeping in mind that your child is not at fault for wetting their bed will help you remain patient and support all efforts to eliminate this problem as quickly as possible.