Bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is a very common problem in children. As many as 20 % of 5-year-olds are still wet at night and even a few teenagers continue to wet their bed. Bedwetting is somewhat more common in boys than in girls and in many families there is a family history of someone being wet at night. About 15 % of children who wet the bed will outgrow this condition each year.
Children who wet the bed at night are often very deep sleepers who arouse from sleep with great difficulty during the night. Consequently, these children will not awaken as easily to the sensation of a full bladder at night. They generally have no awareness that they have wet the bed. Knowing that deep sleeping is the main problem, and not laziness or willfulness, parents need to provide an understanding and supportive environment while the child eventually outgrows the bedwetting. Because the child is simply asleep during the bedwetting, punishment never improves the situation. An attitude of patience and an expectation that time will be the cure will help your child overcome any feelings of failure.
Even in the most patient and tolerant of families, some children who are approaching adolescence become increasingly upset about this problem. There are even young bedwetters, around 8 to 10 years old, who are frustrated with being wet each morning. If the child (not just the parent) is highly motivated to try to stop wetting the bed, then treatment options can be considered.
The safest and most effective treatment for bedwetting is a bedwetting alarm, a device worn at night connected to pajama pants or underwear that alarms when just the slightest bit wet. This alarm is designed to wake up even the deepest sleeper. With a very motivated child and family and diligent use of the alarm, many cases of bedwetting resolve.
There are medications that can be prescribed for bedwetting. In most cases, these medications are used for short-term treatment (sleepovers, camp.) Please talk to your doctor for more information.
Additional resource (paperback book):
Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting by Howard Bennett, MD, FAAP. (2005).
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Silver Spring Pediatrics
Drs. DeConcini, Schooler, Zang, Wang, Yee & Marcus