Sleep Disorders Children Bedwetting

Bedwetting is a fairly common occurrence in children, and bedwetting in children younger than seven is rarely cause for concern. At this age, the child may not have sufficient bladder control to prevent bedwetting (also called “nocturnal enuresis”), even if he is toilet trained.

According to the Mayo Clinic (2009), only 15 percent of children still experience bedwetting problems by age 5. Bedwetting in older children is even less common, with only 5 percent of children bedwetting between the ages of 8 and 11.

Bedwetting boys are more common than girls. Both bedwetting boys and girls may have parents who also wet the bed — up to 80 percent of children who wet the bed have parents who also experienced bedwetting as children, according to The Mayo Clinic (2009).

Bedwetting Causes

Bedwetting is classified as primary or secondary nocturnal enuresis. Primary enuresis describes continual problems with bedwetting. Secondary bedwetting refers to bedwetting that develops after six months of dry nights.

Primary bedwetting causes include small bladders and immature nervous systems that cannot detect full bladders and hormone imbalances. Such factors typically resolve with age in both bedwetting boys and girls.

Secondary bedwetting causes include stress and anxiety. In some cases, children may suffer from urinary tract infections, sleep apnea, ADHD, diabetes or kidney problems that cause bedwetting.

Bedwetting in Older Children

Bedwetting in older children can be upsetting for both parent and child. The sudden onset of bedwetting in older children could result from a health condition and may need to be treated.

Young children, however, rarely require bedwetting treatment. Most children outgrow bedwetting over time.

Bedwetting and Diapers

The use of diapers to treat bedwetting is controversial. Combining bedwetting and diapers may prevent soaked sheets, but diapers do nothing to prevent bedwetting. Some pediatricians believe diapers actually prolong bedwetting, as the child has no motivation to control nocturnal urination.

Bedwetting can prevent children from attending sleepovers out of fear of accidents. Advertisements suggest diapers provide a safety net so children can attend sleepovers without fear of embarrassment. However, this doesn’t address the possibility that being discovered wearing diapers could be just as embarrassing as bedwetting. At best, diapers pose a temporary solution for bedwetting in children.

Bedwetting Medication

Bedwetting in older children sometimes requires medication. Medicine for bedwetting reduces urine production, increases bladder capacity or alters the child’s sleep/wake cycle. Bedwetting medication can cause side effects, and many doctors prefer to start with behavioral modification or bedwetting alarms.

Bedwetting Alarm Systems

Bedwetting alarms are one of the most effective bedwetting treatments. A bedwetting alarm with a moisture detecting pad connects to either bedding or nightclothes. When the pad detects moisture, the bedwetting alarm sounds, with the goal of waking the child in time to stop urination.

A bedwetting alarm gives the child responsibility for bedwetting treatment. It takes time to get used to a bedwetting alarm, but most children experience dry nights within a few months of using bedwetting alarms.


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2002). Bedwetting. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from

Ask Dr. Paul. (n.d.). Bedwetting: Do diapers help? Retrieved September 15, 2010, from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Bed-wetting. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from

Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. (2009). Bed-wetting. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from