Definition

Bed-wetting is when a child over 5 years of age urinates during sleep.

Urinary System in Child
si55551330 96472 1 UTI Children fact sheet
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Causes

Bed-wetting is common and not usually related to a health problem. Causes may be:

  • Drinking too much fluid before bed
  • Constipation
  • Developmental delay problems

Rarely, a health problem may cause bed-wetting. Examples are:

  • Psychological triggers, such as moving to a new home or the death of a loved one
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • A sleep disorder, sometimes related to enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Diabetes insipidus —a rare disorder in which sugar is normal but excess water is excreted by the kidney
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder obstruction

Risk Factors

Bed-wetting is more common in boys before the age of 9. Other things that may raise a child's risk of this problem are:

  • Family members with a history of bed-wetting
  • Chronic constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sickle cell disease

Symptoms

The child wakes up and finds the bed wet from urine.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health and family history. You will also be asked how often and how long your child has been wetting the bed. A physical exam will be done. Bed-wetting is often diagnosed in children over 5 years of age who wet the bed more than twice a week for three months or more.

Blood or urine tests may be done to find out whether an illness is causing this problem.

Images may be taken when the doctor suspects an abnormality may be the cause of the bed-wetting. This can be done with:

Treatment

Any underlying health problems that cause bed-wetting will be treated. Bed-wetting that is not due to a health problem often goes away on its own. The goal of treatment is to limit the number of bed-wettings. This can be done with:

Motivation and Family Support

Bed-wetting is not done on purpose. Punishing a child will not limit the number of bed-wettings. Encouragement and support should be given instead. Limiting fluids and urinating before bedtime may also help. Caffeine should be avoided.

Behavioral Therapy

Urinating at regular intervals during day and before sleep may also help.

A behavioral device may also be advised. One example is a pad with a buzzer that sounds when wet. The pad is worn in the child's underwear. The alarm will wake the child to use the toilet.

Medicine

Medicine may be given, such as:

  • A hormone that decreases the amount of urine that is made
  • An antidepressant that lightens the level of sleep and may also decrease how often the child urinates
  • A medicine to reduce bladder overactivity and the frequency of nighttime wetting

Prevention

There are no known ways to prevent bed-wetting in a child.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019 -
  • Update Date: 01/08/2020 -