Bed Wetting

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

The medical name for bedwetting is Enuresis, which means 'the involuntary voiding of urine beyond the age of anticipated control'. This is a common condition prevalent in children. While most children are toilet trained by the time they are three to four years old, wetting the bed at night is still a familiar problem for many six to eight year old children. Statistics show that it affects about 8% of eight year olds. It is more common in boys and in families in which one or both parents wet the bed as a child.

Bedwetting is defined into two categories, primary in which children who have never had dry nights, and secondary where children who have recently started wetting the bed, but who had previously been dry for 3-6 months.

Some of the common reasons why a child wets bed at night are:

  • His / Her bladder is not yet developed enough to hold urine for a full night, or an unknown substance is offered, teach your child to refuse it.
  • He / She is not yet able to recognize when his bladder is full, wake up, and use the toilet.

Very rarely is bedwetting caused by a disease or physical problem. If your child wets the bed after having been dry at night in the past, your doctor should do an evaluation. Bed-wetting may be a sign that stress is causing the problem.

Most young children get embarrassed by their condition and tend to withdraw and feel isolated. They do not participate in social activities that require them to sleep outside their home, like overnight picnics or sleeping over at a friend's place. Children often suffer from low self-image. Parents may also feel frustrated, embarrassed and annoyed at their children's bedwetting problem. Their attitude might have an adverse effect on the children. As a parent, you can help your child reduce negative feelings about his/her bed-wetting condition and speed up the process of overcoming it, by offering positive support, understanding and encouragement.

About fifteen percent of children who wet the bed will mature out of this problem every year, but until your child does, here are some steps you can take to try and increase the number of dry nights that he/she has:

  • Do not let your child drink large quantities of fluid two hours before bedtime.
  • Make sure that your child goes to the toilet before retiring for the night.
  • There are bedwetting alarm devices available, which you can use if your child is 7 or 8 years old and has not yet developed bladder control. These devices set off an alarm if it senses wetness so that your child can wake up and use the toilet.
  • Protect the bed with a plastic cover between the sheets and mattress.
  • Let your child help change the wet sheets. However, not as a punishment, but out of sense of responsibility. It also saves him/her from embarrassment from having family members know every time he/she wets the bed.
  • Some recommend practicing bladder stretching exercises. With these, your child gradually increases the time between daytime urinations so that the bladder can slowly stretch to hold more urine.
  • Wake up your child at night, during specific intervals so that he/she can go and empty the bladder.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,