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Tanya Hodgson

Tanya is a professional writer and editor with a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago. Tanya has been fighting insomnia for most of her adult life, and she knows firsthand how vital a good night’s rest can be for people with sleep problems.

Sleep Enuresis and How to Handle It

Sleep enuresis or bedwetting is common among children until the age of 7, when it stops in most cases. Parents are responsible for monitoring the situation and helping their child reach a level of physical maturity where their bladder muscle becomes strong and helps keep the bed clean.

Sleep enuresis goes under several names. One alternative name is nocturnal enuresis since enuresis is split into day and night categories. For most parents, however, the familiar term is bedwetting. Bedwetting is common among most children up until the age of 7, after which almost all cases of bedwetting stop entirely. It’s basically expected of a child to wet their bed, to the point where it’s not even classified as a problem until age 8 or older.

It may not always be easy to handle the problem of sleep enuresis. The parents have a responsibility to monitor the situation and intervene where necessary to help their child reach a level of physical maturity where their bladder muscle becomes strong enough to handle enough urine to keep them clean in bed. It is essential for this guidance to be conducted without making the child ashamed of something they cannot control. For this reason, we have filled this article with information about how sleep enuresis works and how to deal with it efficiently and without fuss. Let’s get into it.


How Does Sleep Enuresis Work?

One of the alternate names spells it out quite well: involuntary urination, in this case during the night while the person is asleep. There are two main types of sleep enuresis to consider when it comes to causes – primary and secondary sleep enuresis. Primary enuresis is the most common type, as it is characterized by the person having had that issue since birth. This is typically what you’d see in children, who start wetting themselves as babies. This category of bedwetting is traditionally caused by the brain’s inability to wake the child up at night for a quick bathroom trip, or the bladder itself not developing enough to be stable during the night. Luckily, both of these issues are easily outgrown given enough time.

Secondary enuresis happens much less often, which is why it often goes overlooked. It is a condition that can pop up anywhere from six months to several years after the person develops the ability to control their bladder properly. Despite normally being seen as an issue only children (and through them, their parents) face, bedwetting affects around 1-2% of teens in the United States. If a person older than the age of 6 or 7 has sleep enuresis problems, it becomes necessary and important to consult a doctor.

There are multiple potential causes of sleep enuresis. The key word here is “potential,” as not even researchers can clearly outline the exact causes in most cases. Still, we have a list of possible causes and contributing factors that can affect children and adults. Knowing about these factors is important for providing proper care for the person dealing with involuntary urination. Here’s the list:


Diagnosing Sleep Enuresis

The best and most practical course of action when dealing with sleep enuresis (whether it’s you, your child or another family member) is to simply consult a doctor as soon as possible. They are way more prepared to offer an accurate and helpful diagnosis and set the patient on the right path in terms of treatment. Depending on the patient’s age (note that sleep enuresis typically isn’t diagnosed in children under the age of 5) and other potential parameters, different diagnostic methods can be used. In general, however, you should expect to see one or more of the following options:

No matter which of these methods are used, a detailed medical history is also required. The doctor will ask you about your (or your child’s) urinary patterns, sleeping patterns, past medicine use, allergies, etc. Additionally, they will ask about daily stress and anxiety levels, since those mental problems can contribute a lot towards involuntary nocturnal urination. Give as much detail as you can, because all of it helps reach an accurate diagnosis.


Treating and Coping With Sleep Enuresis

Fortunately, the vast majority of treatment options for involuntary nocturnal urination have no significant side-effects aside from occasional sleepiness. Depending on who’s being treated, many methods usually boil down to behavioral planning and timely interventions by others in the household. Medication is only prescribed as a last resort in most situations. Let’s look at the most common methods used to treat patients with sleep enuresis, especially children:

Treatment is one thing, but there are ways to simply improve the bedwetting situation and help your child through it emotionally. One pitfall that a lot of parents fail to avoid is that you should never, under any circumstance, criticize, scold or punish your child for wetting the bed. They cannot control their bladders properly, so the problem is out of their hands, so to speak. Being too strict can seriously hurt the trust your child has for you, as it can feel like you’re punishing them for something they didn’t do. Be comforting and friendly when talking to your kid about bedwetting, and help them avoid feeling ashamed or embarrassed. You (and your spouse) are the only people this child can rely on, so be understanding. Also, avoid talking about their problem in front of other people, especially if the child dislikes those people for whatever reason (for example, sometimes a family member will tease your child in a friendly way, but that joking manner may not be interpreted as such by the child, causing mistrust and avoidance).

You can make a clever investment and buy disposable or reusable absorbent underpants. These can save you a lot of effort cleaning up messes that occur as a result of bedwetting and don’t interfere with the functionality of moisture alarms.


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