Bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis (en-yuh-ree-sis) is very common.1 As worrying as it might seem as a parent, rest assured, most children will grow out of it.1
While almost one third of four-year-olds wet the bed (we told you it was common), by the time they turn six, that figure drops to 1 in 10 and then 1 in 20 at age ten.1
So, if it’s so common, what causes it?
The short answer is – there is no single cause, but there is a reasonably long list of possible factors.1-4
- A small bladder capacity – your child’s bladder may not be fully developed yet
- Family history – if one or both parents were bedwetters as children, the likelihood of their bedwetting offspring is higher
- Inability to recognise a full bladder – the nerves that control the bladder may still be under development
- If the child is a deep sleeper
- Hormone imbalance – during childhood some children don’t produce enough of a hormone called ADH which tells their body to slow down the production of urine
- Urinary tract infection
- Type 1 diabetes – the first signs can be bedwetting and thirst
- Constipation – the muscles that are used to control stool elimination also control urine. In cases of long-term constipation these muscles can become dysfunctional and contribute to bed-wetting at night.
- Stressful events or anxiety – perhaps associated with family changes, a new sibling, starting a new school, or sleeping away from home may trigger bed-wetting
According to the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne, there may be an underlying medical issue, but it’s rare.1 However, you may decide to seek medical advice in the following situations:1
- Your child is seven years old or older
- You or your child are troubled or stressed with the bedwetting
- Your child has been dry six months or more and then reverts to old bedwetting habits
- Your child wets (or soils) themselves during the day
Advice provided by the RCH also notes that bedwetting is “NOT often a behavioural problem and children rarely do it for attention.” Patience and understanding will serve you well. You can also try a bedwetting alarm, which is thought to be the most useful first step in treatment.1
And if you’d like to learn more about whether bedwetting will go away, you can read another article here.