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Bedwetting

bed wetting; wet bed; bladder; alarm; enuresis; urine; wee; wet; bedwetting; bed-wetting. ;

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Bedwetting is something that lots of children would rather not talk about – especially if it happens to them. Doctors call it 'nocturnal eneuresis' (say nok-tern-al en-you-ree-sis).

A lot of children grow out of wetting the bed before they start school, but many children do not. This is not your fault – it is just the way your body is developing.

Some people stop wetting the bed sooner than others, but you may do other things sooner than they do. What things have you done before some of your friends?

How bedwetting happens

As a baby, your bladder empties when it is full – a baby cannot make it happen, or stop it from happening.

Between the ages of 2-4 years children learn how to notice when their bladders feel full during the daytime, and can hold on to the urine (wee) until they get to the right place to let it out - the toilet or a potty. As they grow bigger, their bladder can hold more and more urine, and can hold on to it for longer times.

Some people can manage this well during the daytime but at night time, when their mind is asleep, their brain seems to stop listening to the bladder!

sleeping in bedAs a result, they wet the bed.

In a class of 5 year-olds, there would be around 5 children who have this problem.

At age 7 there would be around 2-3.

About 1 in 20 ten-year-old children (about 3 in every group of two classes) wets the bed more than twice a week.

So if you're having problems with bedwetting, you are not the only one; in fact there are probably other people in your class and in your family who know exactly how you feel.

Some children wrote about wetting the bed:

"I feel really angry."

"I feel like I'm a baby."

"I can't stay over at friends' houses."

"I never get to go on camps."

"I wake up scared in case the bed is wet."

"I have to get up earlier than my brother in case I have to change the sheets."

"I don't ask friends over because I'm too embarrassed."

"I choose to help mum to change the bed and wash my things."

Lots of people feel really upset and guilty about bedwetting. If you feel like that, you need to know that:

Bedwetting is not your fault, it just happens!

Punishing kids for wetting the bed, not allowing kids drinks after tea and waking kids up lots of times during the night are all things which do not work. They don't stop bedwetting; they just make parents and kids really unhappy.

Why does bedwetting happen?

As you grow from a baby to a school kid, you gradually become better at controlling parts of your body, such as your arms and legs, and this includes your bladder (the part that holds urine or wee).

  • Just as some people grow faster than others do, so some people get control over their bladder faster than others do.
  • Maybe your bladder can't hold as much wee as your body makes in the night – that will change as you grow.
    wet bed
  • Maybe your bladder is not very good at controlling when the wee comes out.
  • Maybe your body makes a lot more wee at night than other kids do.
  • Some people sleep so heavily that they don't wake up when they need to wee.
  • It might be caused by a health problem. A doctor should be able to tell you if it is. For example, it might be a urine infection or kidney problems. It is always important to get a doctor to check at least once to make sure it isn't a health problem, even though it usually isn't.
  • Maybe something bad is happening in your life that makes you worry. That can sometimes cause bedwetting. Eg problems in the family or at school. Talking about your worries can help.
  • Sometimes children and adults who have never had problems before may start wetting the bed. This could mean that they have a health problem that needs sorting out.
  • Often other people in the family, eg. mum, dad, uncles or aunties, used to wet the bed when they were younger. That means you have inherited the problem.

In other words, it is not your fault!

What if you wet your bed?

  • You can understand that it is not your fault. Ask mum or dad or the person who looks after you and the doctor to explain why it is happening to you.
  • Ask mum or dad or your grandparents to tell you whether other people in the family have had this problem. It will make you feel better, and they might be able to give you some ideas on how they coped and how long it lasted.
  • Maybe your doctor will suggest that you try training your bladder to hold more urine by drinking more during the day and holding on for longer times before going to the toilet.

diagram - brain says empty when fullYou will need to get used to going to the toilet during the night, so look around your bedroom and the bathroom.

  • Is there anything there that is a bit scary at night time?
  • Can you get out of bed and into the toilet easily?
  • Can you reach light switches and door handles?
  • Have a talk with mum or dad about it. You may find that a few changes in the layout of your room, or a nightlight may help.

If you have a school camp or sleepover, you could ask your doctor if you could try a special nose spray which will 'dry you up' overnight so that you don't have an embarrassing time. Very often children don't wet the bed when they're in a strange place anyway but have a quiet word with the teacher or your friend's mum anyway. Mum will help if you feel too shy.  Remember teachers are used to this.

What you can do

Some children who wet the bed use special pants that have a lining that soaks up the wee and a plastic coating that stops it leaking out. They are like 'pull up' nappies that younger children wear, but they are specially made for older and bigger children.

If you do not use these, or they do not fit:

  • Ask a parent or caregiver if you can have a waterproof mattress cover and quilt cover.
  • Ask if you can have washable thick (quilted) sheets, which will soak up the wee.
  • If you are old enough, practise changing your sheets until you are so good you could almost do it in your sleep!
  • bedwettingOrganise with dad or mum where the wet bedding is to go, eg. plastic bucket or bag in the laundry, toilet or your room so that you and mum can sort things out quickly and get back to sleep.
  • Keep a room deodoriser in your bedroom so that you can have a quick spray round.
  • Have a shower in the morning so you are fresh and clean when you go to school.

What else might help?

  • Keep a chart to find out when your bladder gets full in the night. Set your alarm clock to wake you up so that you can go to the toilet during the night (lots of adults need to go during the night you know).

in bedYou might manage with these tips and feel OK to wait until you 'grow out of' bedwetting, but if you or mum or dad are very worried about it, you might want to try a bedwetting alarm.

You could try using a bed-wetting alarm, which wakes you up when it senses wee on your sheet or clothes, so that you can go to the toilet. You need to be old enough to be able to operate it yourself. See the related topic Bedwetting alarms to find out more.

What some children said

"It is okay to wet the bed. It doesn't mean that you are a bad person."

"You're not the only person who wets the bed. A lot of people do. I do too sometimes but I'm getting better at staying dry."

"I used to wet the bed but I grew out of it."

"When I had bad dreams I wet the bed. I told mum about the dreams and I don't have them any more."

Dr Kim says:

Dr Kim

"Wetting the bed can make you feel really sad. Remember that it is not your fault. Tell mum, dad or your carer, and the doctor how you feel and they will help you."


 

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.

 

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