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What Is Bedwetting?

Millions of kids and teenagers from every part of the world wet the bed every single night. Maybe you do it. Most kids don't tell their friends, so it's easy to feel kind of alone, like you might be the only one on the whole planet who wets the bed. But you are not alone.

The fancy name for bedwetting, or sleep wetting, is nocturnal (nighttime) enuresis (say: en-yoo-REE-sus).


Why Do Some Kids Wet the Bed?

Enuresis runs in families. This means that if you urinate, or pee, while you are asleep, there's a good chance that a close relative also did it when they were a kid. Just like you may have inherited your mom's blue eyes or your uncle's long legs, you probably inherited bedwetting too.

The most important thing to remember is that no one wets the bed on purpose. It's something you can't help doing. For some reason, kids who wet the bed can't feel that their bladders are full and don't wake up to pee in the toilet. Sometimes a kid who wets the bed will have a realistic dream that they're in the bathroom peeing — only to wake up later and discover that the bed is all wet.

Many kids who wet the bed are very deep sleepers. Do your parents complain that it's hard to wake you up? Trying to wake up someone who wets the bed can be hard — the person just stays asleep.

Some kids who wet the bed do it every single night. Others wet some nights and are dry on others. A lot of kids say that they seem to be drier when they sleep at a friend's or a relative's house. That's because kids who are anxious about wetting the bed might not sleep much or only very lightly. So the brain may be thinking, "Hey, you! Don't wet someone else's bed!" This can help you stay dry even if you're not aware of it.

What Can Help?

The good news is that almost all kids who wet the bed eventually stop. So if you wet every night, don't be discouraged. And don't worry that you're not normal, either physically or emotionally. Bedwetting is not usually caused by a problem with your body or your feelings.

It's likely that bedwetting will go away on its own. But if you have this problem, it's still a good idea for you and your parents to talk to your doctor about it.

Your doctor will ask you some questions, and it's important to answer them truthfully and not feel embarrassed. Remember, bedwetting is so common that your doctor probably treats a lot of kids who do it. The doctor will examine you and probably ask for a pee sample to test.

Some kids who have other problems, like constipation (when you aren't pooping regularly), daytime wetting, or urinary infections (UTIs), may need some extra tests.

What Else Should I Know?

If you wet the bed, there are some things you can do to stay dry. Try not to drink anything after dinner and remember to go to the bathroom before going to bed. If you do wet the bed, help with the cleanup by pulling off the sheets and putting them in the laundry.

A lot of doctors think that the best treatment for enuresis is a program that retrains your brain to do one of two things:

  1. Wake you up so you can go to the bathroom.
  2. Stay asleep and hold it until morning.

This program includes doing bladder exercises, such as waiting a little longer to pee during the day, reading about and imagining staying dry, or even using a tiny alarm. The alarm is connected to a pad placed in your underwear at night. If you start to pee, the pad senses the moisture and sets off the alarm. Different alarms make a loud noise, vibrate, or do both, but they're all easy to use and can help wake even the deepest sleeper.

There are medicines for kids who wet the bed. They might help you temporarily, but they don't cure bedwetting. These medicines work best when combined with the alarm or other training programs.

It may take some practice to retrain your brain, and you'll need to be patient. But eventually, you will stop wetting the bed.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 5, 2023

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