Bedwetting is a common childhood condition. It occurs when there is an involuntary (accidental) loss of urine during sleep. The medical name for bedwetting is nocturnal enuresis.
Bedwetting is normal in children who are under five years old, and the majority of young children will wet the bed at some stage.
Sometimes it affects children who are over five and, occasionally, young adults.
Bedwetting is often caused by an overactive bladder, but it can be the result of problems with the development of the bladder. It can also be due to a neurological disorder (disorders of the brain and nervous system).
Types of bedwetting
There are two types of bedwetting:
primary nocturnal enuresis: persistent, involuntary bedwetting during sleep in a child who aged five or over, and
secondary nocturnal enuresis: where bedwetting comes back after a dry period of at least six months.
Secondary nocturnal enuresis is often linked to a stressful event, such as bullying at school, or the divorce of a child's parents.
How common is bedwetting?
Bedwetting can be a disruptive and stressful condition that is thought to affect around:
- 15% of all children,
- 45% of children with a parent who has also had the condition, and
- 75% of children with two parents who have had the condition.
If your child wets the bed, it is important for you to know that it is not their fault, and that they have no control over it.
Don't punish your child for wetting the bed. This can have harmful psychological effects, such as lowering their self-esteem.
A child usually wets the bed because the amount of urine that they produce is more than their bladder can hold, and they do not wake up even though their bladder is full.
Bedwetting usually stops when the child gets older, because:
- their bladder capacity increases,
- they produce less urine at night, and/or
- they learn to wake up when their bladder is full.
In time, almost all children stop wetting the bed, often without treatment. Approximately 1% will continue to wet the bed into adulthood.