Night-time Incontinence (bed wetting) in Children


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Bedwetting is also known as nocturnal enuresis, and is the most common manifestation of incontinence in children. Although the majority of children will stay dry throughout the night be the age of 4, around 13%  of 6 year-olds will sometimes wet the bed. In most cases this just means that the child’s body and bladder control is taking longer to develop – they may have a smaller than average bladder capacity, or their body may not yet be able to recognise and act upon the urge to urinate. Often children who are deep sleepers are particularly susceptible to nocturnal enuresis.

However, although this may be a common problem, it can be embarrassing and stressful for each child, and can mean they are too worried to stay away from home overnight. It will help to reassure them that this is a normal part of growing up, and they will grow out of it one day. Try to make sure your child does not drink too much in the hours before bedtime, and if they do have an accident don’t give them a row or make them feel guilty.

Although most children will grow out of wetting the bed, there are some ways of helping this. Many parents employ bed-wetting alarms, which clip on to a child’s pyjamas and emit an alarm as soon as any urine is detected. The sound of the siren is intended to cause the child to reflexively stop urinating, and wake them up so that they can go to the toilet. After 4-6 weeks, this should condition your child to wake up when they feel the urge to urinate so that they can go to the toilet.

Many companies produce bed-wetting alarms, and when purchasing one it is important to consider comfort, durability and volume. A bed-wetting alarm will be worn every night, and should be comfortable enough that it does not disturb your child’s sleep, and durable enough that it will not be easily damaged if it is banged against a wall or rolled over. You may also wish to consider how loud the alarm is, how securely it can be fastened to pyjamas, and how easy it is to set up for use.

You can also help your child to stay dry at night by organising a motivational system such as a star chart – where they get a star for every night they stay dry, and receive a reward when they reach a set number of stars – for example, 3, 7, 14 and 21. This acts as positive reinforcement, and can help to motivate your child to subconsciously change their behaviour.