Bedwetting is upsetting for children and parents. It is very common and often runs in families. Adults may be embarrassed by any memories of bedwetting or might not even remember their own experiences. Children rarely discuss the problem with other children so may feel that they are unusual and feel guilt and alienation.
Bedwetting or Enuresis is when a child over 3 continues to urinate during sleep. It is common in children under 6. Most children grow out of it by nine but it may continue into adolescence and beyond. It is more common in boys than girls.
The cause of bedwetting is not clear. Physical causes such as infection, diabetes mellitus or any structural abnormality are likely to affect urinary control during the daytime as well as the night. Emotional causes such as anxiety over recent changes such as starting school, a new baby, moving or other traumas may initiate bedwetting.
The experience may also trigger anxiety and further episodes. It may happen during dreaming and wake the child or during deeper sleep when the child is unaware until waking.
Dealing with Bedwetting
Children usually grow out of the problem. It is important to try and identify worries or changes that may be affecting the child. Sometimes bedwetting coincides with starting school or other changes. Dropping an afternoon nap or a change in routine may mean the child is unable to respond to the urge to urinate during the night.
Often the causes cannot be identified, and the child should be reassured and helped with the practical side of the problem. Experts suggest that they should help with bed changing and be involved in developing a programme that will help them deal with the stress.
Tips for Breaking the Habit
- Restrict liquids in the hours before bed
- Use protective coverings and keep spare bedding available
- Make sure the child urinates immediately before bed
- Identify if the child wets the bed at a regular time, and consider waking the child up before that time to use the toilet
- Encourage the child to recognise the need to urinate during the day
Aids to Help Stop
Parents may consider buying an alarm for an older child. These alarms are designed to attach to nightwear. The alarm is connected to a pad that sends a signal when urination starts. The alarm is designed to wake the child and stimulate the need to visit the toilet. They can take a while to work and the child needs to cooperate with the system.
Parents and children need to be reassured that bedwetting is a common problem and that most children grow out of it naturally. Children can feel guilty and embarrassed and may be reluctant to sleep away from home. Surprisingly, many people report that overnight trips are not a problem as many children do not wet the bed when staying away. This may be due to the child staying awake or sleeping lighter in an unfamiliar bed.
If the child is suffering from other problems and is finding it difficult to cope at home or school it is worth asking a GP for advice and support. Children can be successfully trained to stop bedwetting, and parents are advised to seek support from Self Help organisations and parents groups who will have experience and information of the problem.