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Bedwetting

Things that are cool to talk about with friends:

  • your new video games
  • going to the movies
  • what to do this weekend

Things that you probably don't talk about with friends:

  • how you cry when you watch the movie Bambi
  • the day you accidentally wore your underwear inside out
  • how you wet the bed when you sleep

You Are Not Alone

Millions of kids and teenagers from every part of the world wet the bed every single night. It's so common that there are probably other kids in your class who 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). 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 he or she was 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 doesn't mean that you're lazy or a slob. It's something you can't help doing. For some reason, kids who wet the bed are not able to 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 he or she is in the bathroom peeing — only to wake up later and discover he or she 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? Could you sleep through a marching band parading outside your bedroom door? Or a pack of dogs howling at the moon? Trying to wake up someone who wets the bed is often like trying to wake a log — 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.

Good News

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. Sleep wetting is not usually caused by a problem with your body or your feelings.

It's likely that bedwetting will go away on its own. In fact, 15 out of 100 kids who wet the bed will stop every year without any treatment at all. 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 urine sample to test.

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

More Good News

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 urinate, 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: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2012