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Bedwetting is the loss of bladder control during the night. The medical term for bedwetting is nocturnal (night time) enuresis. Bedwetting can be an uncomfortable issue, but in many cases it’s perfectly normal.

Bedwetting is a standard developmental stage for some children, but it can be a symptom of underlying illness or disease in adults. About 2 percent of adults experience bedwetting, according to the National Association for Continence.

Causes of bedwetting

Physical and psychological conditions can lead to bedwetting in some people. Common causes of bedwetting among children and adults include:

Hormonal imbalances can also cause bedwetting in some people. Everyone’s body makes antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH tells your body to slow down the production of urine overnight. The lower volume of urine helps a normal bladder hold urine overnight. People whose bodies don’t make sufficient levels of ADH may experience nocturnal enuresis because their bladders can’t hold higher volumes of urine.

Diabetes is another disorder that can cause bedwetting. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t process glucose, or sugar, properly and may produce larger amounts of urine. The increase in urine production can cause children and adults who normally stay dry overnight to wet the bed.

Risk factors for bedwetting

Gender and genetics are among the risk factors for bedwetting. Both boys and girls may experience episodes of nocturnal enuresis during early childhood. But boys are more likely to wet the bed when they get older.

Family history plays a role, too. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you’re more likely to wet the bed if a parent, sibling, or other family member has had the same issue. Bedwetting is also more common among children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers don’t yet fully understand the relationship between bedwetting and ADHD.

Lifestyle changes to manage bedwetting

Certain lifestyle changes may help end bedwetting. For adults, setting limits on fluid intake plays a large part in controlling bedwetting. Try not to drink water or other liquids within a few hours of bedtime to reduce the risk of having an accident. Drink the majority of your daily fluid requirements before dinnertime. This will ensure that your bladder is relatively empty before bedtime. For children, limiting fluids before bedtime has not been shown to reliably decrease bedwetting.

You should also cut out caffeinated or alcoholic drinks in the evening. Caffeine and alcohol are bladder irritants and diuretics, so they’ll cause you to urinate more.

Devise a voiding schedule to help you stay dry overnight. A voiding schedule simply means that you urinate on a regular timetable, such as every 1 to 2 hours. Use the bathroom right before you go to bed to empty your bladder fully before sleep.

In children

Bedwetting can sometimes occur during a stressful event in a young person’s life. Conflict at home or school may cause your child to have nightly accidents. The birth of a sibling, moving to a new home, or another change in routine can be stressful to children and may trigger bedwetting incidents.

Talk to your child about how they’re feeling. Understanding and compassion can help your child feel better about their situation, which can put an end to bedwetting in many cases.

Refrain from punishing bedwetting incidents. Praise your child when they stay dry. This will help them feel good about not wetting the bed.

Medical treatment for bedwetting

Bedwetting that stems from a medical condition requires treatment beyond just lifestyle adjustments. Medications can treat a variety of conditions of which bedwetting is a symptom. For example:

  • Antibiotics can eliminate UTIs.
  • Anticholinergic drugs can calm an irritated bladder.
  • Desmopressin acetate increases levels of ADH to slow nighttime urine production.
  • Medications that block dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can reduce swelling of the prostate gland.

It’s also important to control chronic conditions, such as diabetes and sleep apnea. Bedwetting associated with underlying medical issues will likely resolve with proper management.

Outlook for bedwetting

Most children outgrow bedwetting by about 7 years old. By this age, bladder control is stronger and more fully developed. Lifestyle changes, medical treatment, and support from family and friends can help children and adults overcome bedwetting.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Jacquelyn Cafasso
Medically reviewed on: Jul 06, 2017: Karen Gill, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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