Bedwetting happens when children don’t wake up during the night when they need to do a wee. It’s accidental.
Bedwetting can happen for a range of reasons. For example, it can happen when children:
- sleep deeply and find it hard to wake in the night
- make larger than usual amounts of wee at night
- have bladders that spasm during sleep
- are constipated
- have conditions that interrupt their sleep, like sleep apnoea.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to wet the bed. Bedwetting also runs in families. If you wet the bed as a child, your own children might also be more likely to wet the bed.
Night-time wetting is common even in school-age children. At 5 years old,1 in 5 children still uses pull-ups or nappies overnight. At 6 years old, it’s 1 in 10 children.
Symptoms of bedwetting
Bedwetting happens at night.
Some children wet the bed every night. Others wet only a few times a week, once a week or once a month.
Daytime wetting is accidental wetting during the day while your child is awake. It’s much less common than bedwetting. Daytime wetting is often caused by a medical condition. Speak to your GP if your child has daytime wetting.
Should you see a doctor about bedwetting?
If you’re worried about your child’s bedwetting, or if it’s causing issues for your child and your family, it’s a good idea to see your GP for advice about treatment and management.
For example, it might be a good idea to see the GP if your child is still wetting the bed regularly at seven years old and:
- you’re concerned about how your child will handle sleep-overs or overnight school camps
- bedwetting is starting to bother or worry your child.
Bedwetting can be sorted out. Your GP can talk you through the options and help you work out what’s right for your child and your family. Your GP might also refer your child to a bedwetting clinic or specialist.
Bedwetting alarms are usually recommended as the first treatment for children who are 7 years or older.
A bedwetting alarm is a device that makes a noise and wakes children when they wet the bed. They gradually help children start to recognise when they’re going to wee.
There are two types of alarm:
- Pad and bell alarm – this is a rubber mat that goes on your child’s bed. You put it under your child’s bottom. It’s connected by a cord to a battery-operated alarm, which sounds when the rubber mat gets wet – that is, when your child does a wee.
- Personal alarm – this goes into your child’s pyjamas or underpants. The alarm sounds when it gets wet – that is, when your child does a wee.
If you decide to use a bedwetting alarm, it can be a good idea to sleep in your child’s room for the first week or so. Your child might need help to wake quickly and go to the toilet. You might also need to comfort your child. The sound of the alarm can confuse or scare some children until they get used to it.
Depending on how well your child responds to the alarm treatment, you might need to use a bedwetting alarm for 1-3 months. If your child is still wetting the bed after 3 months, you might need to have a break. You can try again at a later time or try other treatments.
Bedwetting alarms are completely safe. There’s no risk of electrocution to your child.
It’s a good idea to buy a waterproof mattress protector or underlay for your child’s bed to stop the mattress getting wet and smelly. Bedwetting sheets are another option – these are a combination of fabric and waterproof material that go over the bottom bed sheet. They can make it faster and easier to change your child’s bedding in the night.
Medication as a treatment for bedwetting
In some cases, your GP or paediatrician might prescribe medication to treat bedwetting. Speak to your GP about whether medication is an appropriate treatment for your child.