Bedwetting is a normal part of growing up for many young children . About 40% of three-year-olds wet the bed - and it can provide a steep learning curve for parents as you work towards the target of dry nights for your little one.
It usually comes down to a loss of bladder control when your little one is sleeping – even if they’re old enough to control it during the day.
Bedwetting is most common in children under six years old and usually they’ll grow out of it – so there’s rarely anything to worry about . Still, you might want to try a few bedwetting treatments to relieve any embarrassment or discomfort.
What causes bedwetting?
There are generally three main causes of bedwetting in children:
1. They produce too much wee at night.
2. As their bladders are smaller and developing, they don’t stretch to hold all this urine.
3. They don’t feel the need to pee or wake up when their bladder sends a signal that it’s full
Thankfully, these all these are manageable. As your child’s body grows and their systems mature, they’ll usually stop wetting the bed. But waiting until they naturally have regular dry nights can lead to discomfort and embarrassment for them (not to mention the additional washing)
Try these tips to reduce the chance of your child wetting the bed :
Make sure they have a wee right before going to bed
Avoid any drinks in the hour before they go to sleep
This can happen when your child had stopped wetting the bed for at least six months but has recently started again. These can be down to other underlying causes of bedwetting :
Stress – Big life changes like starting school, the arrival of a new sibling or a house move can sometimes create anxiety related to bedwetting.
Genetics – Bedwetting can run in families, so if a relative has a history of wetting the bed it could be down to genetics.
Medical conditions – Having a urinary tract infection (UTI), diabetes or even just constipation might result in bedwetting.
If you notice other symptoms alongside wetting the bed, take your child to the doctor for a proper medical assessment.
Finding the cause of bedwetting
There are many reasons why bedwetting happens, so it can be tricky to attribute it to a single factor. Knowing exactly what causes bedwetting might help you prevent it happening again. But in most cases the same treatments are likely to have an effect whatever the cause.
Try to identify the cause with the following steps:
Note the number of drinks they have each day – they might just be drinking a lot or too close to bedtime
Check your family history
Ask them if they feel fine – it could highlight any stress or pain issues causing it
Bedwetting tips for parents
Bedwetting can be an ongoing issue that’s upsetting for you and your child, but there are ways you can handle it.
Monitor their drinking schedule
The main causes of bedwetting relate to young children producing too much wee and being unable to store or control it during their sleep. Monitoring their drinking habits makes sense. What and when they drink can have a direct impact on whether they have a wet or dry night.
You can try and control this in a few ways:
Change drinking times – Encourage your offspring to drink earlier in the day, slowing down in the afternoon and eliminating drinks directly before bedtime.
Prevent thirst overload – Drinking steadily throughout the day can prevent thirst overload, which can cause a sudden intake of fluid later in the day (and outpouring at night). Give them a water bottle to use whether at home, nursery or school.
Avoid bladder irritants – Certain drinks that contain traces of caffeine, artificial flavours or sweeteners (like chocolate milk, fruit juices and fizzy drinks) can irritate your child’s bladder. So, keep them away, especially later in the day.
Prepare their bedroom
Think about how you can make the bedroom environment better for them. These tips can help reduce instances and make dealing with the aftermath a lot more pleasant for everyone.
To get their bedroom better prepared:
Apply a waterproof mattress – This will be a lot quicker and easier to clean if your child has an accident overnight.
Provide easy access to a toilet – If they share a bunk bed make sure they sleep on the bottom one. Also, is the route to the bathroom well lit? What about a child’s seat on the toilet? You could switch rooms if there’s not a bathroom on the same floor.
Have spare clothes and bedding nearby – Especially where there’s bedwetting after age 10, older children may want to sort out any accidents themselves. Have fresh bedding and night clothes to hand.
Create a reward system
Offering incentives can help with potty training and developing other behaviours in children.
Positive suggestion can encourage your child to have dry nights on a subconscious level.
Make a chart or use a calendar and give them a sticker (a smiley face, star or something else they really like) each time they have a dry night. When they get 10 stars or five in a row, give them an extra treat – such as a sweet, small toy or trip to the park. Explain the rules to help them understand how important it is to stay dry and hopefully their bedwetting will reduce.
Talk to them
Some of the most effective bedwetting advice for parents can be to simply talk to your child about it. Make it clear they’re not to blame and that other kids have the same problem.
Perhaps speak about your own experiences if you used to wet the bed.
Getting angry or dishing out punishment for bedwetting normally has the opposite of the intended effect and can create future problems . It can lead to increased stress (possibly causing further bedwetting) and they might hide their bedwetting, which doesn’t solve the problem.
Instead, keep calm and encourage your child when they have dry nights while getting them to help clean up when they don’t.
If you do have concerns about your child’s bedwetting, contact your GP. Most of the time it will be natural, but they can assess for any underlying medical conditions and offer treatments where they think it’s required.
Should you wake your child to pee at night?
No, you shouldn’t regularly wake your little one during the night to go to the toilet. It won’t stop any bedwetting in either the long- or short-term, and will simply disrupt their sleep. Instead, make sure they have a wee before they go to bed and if they have an accident overnight help them to clean it up in the morning.
What age should my child be dry at night?
Most children are reliably dry at night by the age of four. However, some may still experience bedwetting until the age of six if they are deep sleepers. Those with medical or other underlying conditions may not be dry until they’re older, while even those reliably dry can have the odd accident every now and then.
Why has sudden bedwetting in my 10 year old started?
Secondary bedwetting is when a child or teenager who has had dry nights for at least six months starts to wet the bed again. Also known as sudden onset bedwetting, it can be caused by similar things to standard bedwetting, such as stress (starting a new school, family issues) or an underlying health condition.
Does sleeping too deeply affect bedwetting?
Enjoying a deep sleep doesn’t trigger bedwetting. However, it can increase the likelihood of a wet night, as your child is less likely to wake when their bladder signals to their brain it’s full and needs emptying
Is it true that bedwetting is caused by psychological issues?
No, psychological factors like stress and anxiety aren’t the main cause bedwetting. They can explain instances of secondary bedwetting due to the impact stress has on hormone levels in older children. But for younger kids, while psychological issues may play some part, they’re unlikely to be the primary cause.