Davina Richardson, RGN/RSCN Specialist Children’s Nurse at Bladder & Bowel UK, explains the physical reasons why children wet the bed and importantly that they’re not doing it deliberately. The benefit of seeking early treatment for bedwetting is also discussed.
We used to think that bedwetting was a psychological problem that would get better with time and therefore children were not offered any treatment or support. However, we now know that bedwetting is caused by physical problems. All children who wet the bed are unable to wake up when they need to wee during the night. If they woke up they would go to the toilet. The reason that they need a wee at night is either:
These problems are not the child’s fault. They are not wetting the bed deliberately. They may have some dry nights when either they make less wee, or they may be dry when they have woken up during the night or slept for a shorter amount of time than usual. Being dry on some nights does not mean that they are doing something wrong or naughty on nights when they are wet.
We now know that children who wet the bed do get some awareness of the bladder being full, which can disturb their sleep, but not enough to wake them up. These children may be restless and do not sleep as well as children who are dry. This may make them tired during the day, which might affect their behaviour.
Children who wet the bed are often very embarrassed about it, so much so that they may try and hide wet bedding and pyjamas. They often do not want anyone outside the family to know and will avoid sleepovers and overnight trips with school, Cubs or Brownies because of it. Keeping wetting secret can be a source of worry for children. Feeling different and ashamed can cause problems with low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.
Understanding the cause of the bedwetting and knowing they are not the only person who has this problem can be really helpful to children, as well as to their families. Bedwetting is considered a medical problem from 5 years of age, but basic advice can help younger children as well. Successful treatment can result in better sleep, more social opportunities, less worry and improved self-esteem and self-confidence as well as less stress and anxiety for families. Therefore, assessment and treatment should be offered to children from 5 years old.
Your healthcare professional (GP, school nurse or health visitor) should be able to give you advice or treatment or refer you to someone who specialises in treating bedwetting.
Bladder & Bowel UK have a confidential helpline available at email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0161 607 8219.
Date of preparation: October 2019