What you need to know about bedwetting

"Bedwetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, occurs when a child over five years old unknowingly pees while sleeping. Bedwetting becomes a problem when it is frequent enough to be disturbing, usually more than twice a week," say doctors from the Department of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine​ at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.​

What causes bedwetting?

Bedwetting is a common problem many children and their families face. The exact cause is still unknown. But it is largely believed that a delay in the child developing bladder control causes bedwetting. This explains why bedwetting goes away on its own in 10 to 15 percent of affected children every year.

Also, some children have small bladders or have such difficulty waking up from deep sleep that they sleep through the urge to pee. Bedwetting does run in the family, so it is more likely in children whose parents used to be ‘bed-wetters’ themselves.

A lack of the antidiuretic hormone may also be the cause of bedwetting. Although rare, there could be a physical problem causing bedwetting and as such, it is important that an experienced doctor checks the child.

The doctor will go through the child’s medical history and do a thorough physical examination. He may also suggest blood and urine tests as well as measure the blood pressure to rule out other causes of bedwetting.

What can parents do to fix bedwetting?

The good news is that parents can usually fix bedwetting with simple measures such as having the child pee just before bedtime and not drinking too much water.

Parents can also wake the child one to two hours after sleep and encourage him or her to use the toilet so that he or she remains dry for the rest of the night. Until bedwetting stops, you could place plastic under the bed sheet to protect the mattress from getting wet. Getting your child involved in changing the wet sheets will teach him or her responsibility and also avoids embarrassing the child should the rest of the family knows about it. Don’t do this, however, if the child sees it as a form of punishment.

Should simple measures be ineffective, the use of a bedwetting alarm may be recommended. This is an alarm that will sound when urine is detected so that the child then wakes up to use the toilet. Bedwetting alarms are very helpful if used correctly and they have been found to be even more effective than some medications, which are usually given as a last resort.

The paediatrician will also be able to advise if the child is likely to benefit from bladder exercises.

Bedwetting can be very distressing for both the child, who may feel embarrassed, and the parents, who may be angry or frustrated with the problem. Parents and siblings need to know that the child is not at fault and should not be punished or teased for something he cannot control. Instead, reassure the child that he will eventually be able to stay dry throughout the night.

Ref: W09