Bedwetting & sleeping

Bedwetting & sleeping

Quality sleep is essential

You may not hear of many people talking about it, but bedwetting is more common than you imagine. Bedwetting can become a difficult and socially isolating problem. It is frustrating for you, and your child may be scared and embarrassed. Bed wetting is involuntary wetting while asleep – the medical name is nocturnal enuresis.

Quality sleep is essential for children’s growth and development. Bedwetting disturbs sleep patterns and can cause anxiety, affecting everything from sleepovers to self-confidence.

A child over the age of five years who has never achieved consistent dry nights has primary enuresis. Secondary enuresis occurs when a child who has previously been dry for six months or more starts wetting the bed.

There are things you can try at home to help train the bladder. Regular drinking and toileting helps exercise the bladder to fill and empty, therefore improving bladder function at night. Depending on the age of the child encourage 6 – 8 water based drinks throughout the day 4 -8 year olds need 1000mls – 1400mls; 9- 13 year olds 1200 – 2300mls. Encourage two thirds of the drinking in the first two thirds of the day, reducing evening drinking and stopping drinking about an hour and a half before bed. Always encourage toileting before bed.

If you are worried about urgency and frequency of toilet visits during the day seek professional advice. It is important to rule out urinary tract infections (UTI) so ask the GP to check a urine sample If you are worried everything you have tried isn’t helping ask for a referral to an Enuresis clinic where an assessment for nocturnal enuresis can help identify if an enuresis alarm or medication may be helpful in achieving dry nights.

An enuresis alarm is worn at night and when a child wets the alarm is triggered teaching the chid to wake up to the sensation the bladder is full and hold on. Medication- Desmopressin - may also be an option. Desmopressin is an artificial form of the naturally occurring hormone Vasopressin; it works by causing the kidneys to concentrate urine overnight. Desmopressin is available on prescription as a tablet or a melt.

The School Nursing service offers enuresis clinics from age 5 – 19 years and parents can self-refer or be referred by their GP or other professional.

What causes bedwetting?

It is often the result of one or a combination of reasons - it is not the child’s fault:

  • Not waking to the signal the bladder is full

  • Drinking too much particularly before bed - ensure two thirds of drinking is done in first two thirds of the day. Stop drinking an hour and a half before bed and always use the toilet.

  • Not drinking enough - aim for 6- 8 drinks a day spread throughout the day.

  • Lack of vasopressin - some children do not produce enough of the hormone vasopressin at night and do not concentrate their urine therefore they overproduce urine.

  • Bladder overactivity - the muscle spasm in the bladder wall caused by an overactive bladder can occur at night.

  • Constipation- Constipation can cause wetting as the rectum is full of faeces which pushes on the bladder limiting the room it has to fill and causing over activity of the bladder. If your child is constipated go to the GP for advice and medication. Encourage fluid intake as a constipated chid is often a poor drinker.

  • Urinary tract infection - a visit to your GP for an assessment is always recommended where a simple urine test can check for an infection and medicine can be prescribed.

  • Stress and Anxiety - are linked to bedwetting understanding and support at stressful times and seeking professional help if necessary.

  • Family traits - bedwetting can run in families.

ERIC – are an organisation that provide education and resources for improving child hood continence.
Visit for further information.

ERIC’s Guide to night time wetting

ERIC’s Guide to Daytime wetting

ERIC’s guide to Children’s Bowel problems

Useful links - homepage.

The Children's Sleep Chatrity Information leaflets - Requires registration.<

Children who soil or wet themselves and Sleep problems in childhood and adolescence factsheet
Visit site