Myth 32: There’s Something Wrong With A Bedwetter

7-31toiletOnce our children outgrow diapers, we all hope that they will enjoy comfortable nights of sleep in a dry bed.  Also, more practically, we want them to be able to sleep over at friends’ houses or in a hotel bed without worry that they will soil the bed or suffer embarrassment.  But what about the child who, despite diligent night-training, continues to sleep right through the urge to use the bathroom. Is it his fault? Is it ours?

The following is written by Washington University In St. Louis.

Nighttime bedwetting, or primary nocturnal enuresis, is a common condition in children, and most outgrow it. About 15 percent of five-year-olds and about 5 percent of 10-year-olds wet the bed involuntarily unrelated to an underlying medical condition. The condition happens more often in boys than in girls and tends to run in families. Nighttime bedwetting becomes a real problem when it starts affecting children’s socialization – when they can’t go on sleepovers or attend camp.

Bedwetting is not due to a behavioral or mental problem or laziness of the child, says Paul Austin, M.D., associate professor of surgery at Washington University in St. Louis and a pediatric urologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Rather, some of the most common causes of bedwetting include:

• Genetic factors: Children with one or both parents who wet the bed as children have a much higher risk of wetting the bed.
• Problems with the kidney: lack of a hormone that is produced at night. The hormone, anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) or vasopressin, is produced normally at night to limit the formation of urine during sleep.
• Problems with the brain: a full bladder fails to wake up the child.
• Problems with the bladder: the bladder is too small for his or her age. The bladder should hold, in ounces, the child’s age plus two.

All of these common causes are temporary and resolve as the child matures. Parents should exercise patience with their child and understand that their child is not wetting the bed on purpose. In addition, parents should encourage the child and let him or her know that they will eventually be able to stay dry at night, Austin says.

Some other steps parents can take include:
• Limiting liquids two hours before bedtime.
• Encouraging the child to go to the bathroom before bed.
• Waking the child during the night to go to the bathroom.
• Making sure the child gets enough rest and doesn’t get overtired.
• Avoiding foods before bed that may cause sensitivity or increase urine production, such as dairy, carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate, artificially colored drinks, candy, licorice, citrus and melons.


Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

9 Responses

  1. I have a child who wet the bed nightly (often several times) until he was 8 years old. We solved his bed wetting by using an alarm. The bed wetting alarm took about 2 months of patient use but has given us years of dry nights. My child absolutely loved the children’s book, Prince Bravery and Grace – Attack of the Wet Knights. It is the story of a young prince who struggles with “the Wet Knights” and eventually defeats them by using an alarm. It’s funny yet empathetic and gave him the understanding and motivation to end the bed wetting. has lots of positive information about solving bed wetting. The best advice for parents about how to stop bedwetting I found is the book, Seven Steps to Nighttime Dryness, by Renee Mercer. I urge all parents dealing with a child’s bed wetting to read it. Invest in the books-they make the process so much easier, then an alarm -its the best decision I ever made. check out my article:

  2. Followed you here from Twittermoms.

    I also have an almost eight year old boy who still occasionally wets his bed, usually right after I have changed all the sheets. We have found that not drinking two hours prior to bed time has helped enormously.

    Thank you for this very informative post! I’ll be back for sure.

  3. My five year old has not been dry overnight. Ever. She still wears a diaper and no matter if we take her to the bathroom before we go to bed or if we set our alarm and take her in the middle of the night, she will still be wet. I don’t stress it, at all. I figure that she’ll get over it at some point.

    I think this article is giving sound advise except for one point that I think should be addressed. A child should be tested for any UTI problems if they are still not able to stay dry past the age of five. It is best to rule out any physical problems, just to be sure.

    Neither my husband nor I were bet wetters. Neither were any of our siblings, our nieces and nephews haven’t/don’t wet the bed nor did either of our parents. Yet, we have a five year old who does. We have decided to have an ultrasound and other testing done because, even though bed wetting isn’t a big deal, if there is a physical problem we would like to know about it. Whether we wait it out and see if the problem corrects itself or go the surgery route should a problem be found, we don’t know yet. But we feel it’s important to know about the health of our children when a problem could be present.

  4. sara: My second of four is also a bed wetter. We asked her pediatrician if we should be concerned, but she replied that nocturnal enuresis is not a health issue until the 7 yo mark. Only if it persists, we should try not to give her drinks 2 hours prior bedtime, and maybe take her to the bathroom at midnight, although she is not crazy about this idea because breaking her REM phase could be bad for her growing rate.
    We should make sure it’s not a response to stress or jealousy, and then maybe check if there is a hormone deficit, which can be treated with pills until the hypotalamus is mature enough to produce the hormone in question. Around her 11th year, anyway, the problem usually solves itself, whether it has been treated or not.
    Conclusion: it’s usually the parents’ reaction to the bed wetting that hurts the child’s well being, not the moisture. And keep in mind that it’s more important for the child to have a good night’s rest than sphynter control while sleeping, so diapers are perfectly welcome if it means no one has to get up to change bedsheets.

  5. My daughter was having a hard time staying dry through the night. She always seemed to have an accident at the same time. I did find that having her drink less helped, but it didn’t stop the problemI read about a technique called night lifting in this book ( that actually worked for us.

  6. help help!!!

    Not only does my 6 year old wet the bed nightly. But we used to put him in pullups to save the bed and discovered he was wetting the pullups before even laying down. He cried and cried and did not like that we took the pullups away. So know we must deal with a wet bed every morning.
    We are going on vacation and staying in a hotel. I dont want him to wet the hotel bed. But I dont want to allow pullups for those 2 nights
    What do I do??????

  7. у вашего блога красивый диз, сами рисовали?

    родословная семьи малаховских

  8. I occasionally wet the bed when I was a kid. My dad just yelled at me and said “I don’t want anything to do with a boy who pees in his bed!” I guess the punishment worked. I don’t wet the bed any more.

  9. This page really has all of the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

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