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Picture this: You’re going somewhere that doesn’t have a bathroom available (or has one that’s extremely undesirable i.e., a porta-potty). You feel a little stressed before going to your destination, so you go to the bathroom a few extra times.

You know, just to be sure.

You restrict fluids.

You picture parched desert landscapes the whole way there.

Even then, when you get to your destination, you might focus so much on not having a bathroom nearby that your body feels the urge to urinate even though you don’t actually have to go. That can *quite literally* put a damper on things and make the whole outing unpleasant. You may even avoid future activities at that location because you don’t want to deal with the stress.

Unfortunately, bedwetting happens at a place and time that your child can’t avoid, which can be very stressful and upsetting. You might have struggled with bedwetting as a child, but now that your child is struggling, you’re not sure what to do. Whether or not you have experience wetting the bed, you might have questions about what to do moving forward. Today, we will answer seven common questions about wetting the bed.

1.What is bedwetting?

Bedwetting’s technical term is “nocturnal enuresis,” and it means that the person affected urinates accidentally in their sleep.

2. Are there different types of bedwetting?

Believe it or not, there are two kinds of bedwetting: primary and secondary. Primary bedwetting is when a person has never regularly remained dry during the night for at least six months. Secondary bedwetting, on the other hand, is when a person has successfully been nighttime trained but then starts wetting the bed at least twice a week for three straight months.

3. What causes bedwetting?

There are many different reasons why a child may wet the bed. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the more common causes:

  • Genetics: Yes, believe it or not, there is a link between parents who wet the bed and their children. This is generally the cause of primary bedwetting.
  • Stressors: Traumatic events, divorce, abuse, and neglect can all trigger bedwetting episodes. Stressors usually cause secondary bedwetting.
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Excessive drinking close to bedtime
  • Large caffeine intake
  • UTI
  • Some medications

4. When is bedwetting “normal”?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for this, but before the age of five, bedwetting is considered a (more or less) normal occurrence of childhood. It happens more often in boys and children with ADHD. If you are concerned, your pediatrician will give guidance on additional steps (bloodwork, urine analysis, sleep study, etc.) that you can take.

5. Can wetting the bed harm my child?

The act of wetting the bed isn’t harmful to your child, but there are some potential problems associated with bedwetting. For one, it could be the result of another physical disorder. Some heart, gastroenterology, urology, medication, or sleep problems could be causing bedwetting, so diagnosing and treating those ailments could correct the bedwetting.

There can also be trouble with keeping the sleeping area clean and sanitary when bedwetting occurs frequently. Additionally, rashes and other skin problems could crop up when the skin is in prolonged contact with wetness.

Bedwetting can also be very stressful for your child, leading to poor sleep, trouble staying awake during the day, and anger at the whole situation.

6. How do you stop bedwetting?

For most kids, bedwetting will resolve on its own given time. That said, there are some things you can try to get ahead of the problem. Here are a few ideas:

  • Bedtime routine: Have your child use the bathroom at the end of the bedtime routine. When they sit on the toilet, have them practice purposeful breathing for no more than three minutes. This allows their body to relax and release any urine they are holding in unknowingly.
  • Limit fluids: Try to limit fluids about two hours before bedtime. This will require some thoughtfulness on your part to ensure that your child gets enough liquids earlier in the day.
  • Nighttime alarm: A nighttime bedwetting alarm is a sensor that you place inside your child’s pajamas. It will go off when it detects moisture, waking you and your child up. By using a bedwetting alarm regularly, your child’s body learns when it needs to wake up before it has an accident.
  • Nighttime waking: Purposefully waking your child once or twice during the night can reduce the frequency of accidents. If your child is a bit older, an alarm clock can wake them, so you don’t need to get up.
  • Medication: If nothing seems to work, your child’s pediatrician may recommend medication that makes bedwetting less frequent.
    The most important thing you can do is remain calm after a bedwetting incident. Allowing your child to help you clean things up can give them a sense of control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Being upset after each accident will create more anxiety in your child, which can prolong the bedwetting cycle.

7. How can I reduce sleep anxiety around bedwetting?

This is a valid concern. Wetting the bed can make it so your kid won’t sleep no matter what kind of sleep training or pep talks you do before bed. So what can you do to reduce nighttime anxiety?

  • Make a plan: If your child is older, make a plan that helps them be in control of the situation. Start by making a mattress protector and sheet layer cake (mattress, mattress protector, sheets, mattress protector, sheets, blankets), so when there’s an accident, clean-up is quick and painless. Have a couple of Ziploc gallon bags ready by the bed with an extra pair of PJs, underwear, wipes, and a flashlight in them, so your child can grab everything they need all at once without having to hunt for it. Letting them help you clean up is another way to get them involved.
  • Don’t freak out: We get it: you’re tired. No one likes getting woken up because of an accident, but the fact is that your child isn’t doing this on purpose. Getting upset only deepens the shame and fortifies their anxiety, making it harder for them to get back to sleep. So take a deep breath and help your child without judgment.
  • Give them an extra hug: As hard as it is for you to be woken up, it’s probably harder on your child. So give them an extra hug and remind them that things will get better.

Wetting the bed isn’t fun for anyone, but it’s not the end of the world. With enough time, most cases will resolve on their own. The important thing to remember is that you child needs your love and support through the process. Being empathetic and having a plan will go a long way in helping your child navigate through this common childhood occurrence.