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Bedwetting and Sleep

Bedwetting, also referred to as ‘nocturnal enuresis’ in medical terms, is an issue many parents face at some point and it may be extremely upsetting, especially in the case of older children. In general, bedwetting is defined as involuntary urination of children aged 5+ during sleep and affects 5 to 7 children in the USA.

When to Seek Medical Help?

As children mature, bedwetting becomes less frequent. But, bedwetting may sometimes indicate an underlying issue in case of:

  • Older children, even teenagers, suddenly starting to wet their beds after a long dry sleeping period
  • Painful urination or discolored urine
  • Excessive thirst
  • Daytime incontinence
  • Bowel movement issues
  • Sleep issues

Potential Bedwetting Causes

In younger children, bedwetting is considered normal. Having said that, here’s a brief list of common potential bedwetting causes:

  • Anxiety – Whether it is a chronic state of distress or simply a response to a stressful event, anxiety increases the chance of bedwetting.
  • Diet habits – There are specific foods and drinks called diuretics that cause increased urine production and when children consume them they are more likely to wet their beds.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) – One of the most common symptoms of UTIs is unexpected and frequent urination and bladder inflammation which can cause bedwetting.
  • Sleep apnea – Although sleep apnea is common in adults, it is also found in children. It is a sleep disorder characterized by ‘atrial natriuretic peptide hormone production that causes increased urine production during sleep.
  • Constipation – The excess waste accumulated in the rectum as a result of constipation can make it bulge which adds extra pressure on the bladder and may cause bedwetting.

Other less common and more serious bedwetting causes include kidney issues, ADH insufficiency, and diabetes. Also, some factors like family history, ADHD, and being a ‘deep sleeper’ increase the risk of bedwetting, especially in children.

How Can Bedwetting Affect Sleep?

Namely, bedwetting can affect sleep in many different ways. First and foremost, once a child has wet the bed, he/ she is quite likely to wake up. And, waking up in the middle of sleep leads to prolonged sleep disruption because it takes time to clean themselves and change the sheets. Then, it takes them longer to fall back asleep.

Furthermore, experiencing frequent bedwetting episodes may also lead to having some psychosocial issues. In other words, children are likely to feel anxious before bedtime, feel ashamed or depressed, and have a feeling of social embarrassment, which will eventually negatively affect the emotional wellbeing of the child and cause further sleep issues.

Lastly, in cases of chronic bedwetting, children may get rashes and irritation of the skin from urine exposure which will in return add discomfort to their sleep. They would either have difficulties falling asleep or wake up frequently during the night.

Ways to Stop Bedwetting

Even though addressing this issue may seem intimidating at first, it is usually less daunting than expected. Many actions may be taken to identify the root of the bedwetting problem and therefore either reduce or solve bedwetting totally. Here are only some ways to help you deal with bedwetting:

  • Ask your child if there’s something wrong
  • Be supportive and don’t punish your child
  • Keep a bedwetting calendar
  • Improve your kid’s sleep hygiene
  • Limit nighttime drinking
  • Ensure your child goes to the bathroom before bedtime
  • Eliminate bladder irritants
  • Try using a wetness alarm
  • Consult your pediatrician

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