What Causes Bedwetting?

Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on July 6, 2017Written by Jacquelyn Cafasso

Bed-wetting is the loss of bladder control during the night. The medical term for Bed-wetting is nocturnal (night time) enuresis. Bed-wetting can be an uncomfortable issue, but in many cases it’s perfectly normal. Bed-wetting is a standard... Read More

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

Bed-wetting 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 Bed-wetting, according to the National Association for Continence.

Causes of Bed-wetting

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

Hormonal imbalances can also cause Bed-wetting 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 Bed-wetting. 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 Bed-wetting

Gender and genetics are among the risk factors for Bed-wetting. 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. Bed-wetting is also more common among children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers don’t yet fully understand the relationship between Bed-wetting and ADHD.

Lifestyle changes to manage Bed-wetting

Certain lifestyle changes may help end Bed-wetting. For adults, setting limits on fluid intake plays a large part in controlling Bed-wetting. 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 Bed-wetting.

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

Bed-wetting 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 Bed-wetting 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 Bed-wetting in many cases.

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

Medical treatment for Bed-wetting

Bed-wetting that stems from a medical condition requires treatment beyond just lifestyle adjustments. Medications can treat a variety of conditions of which Bed-wetting 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. Bed-wetting associated with underlying medical issues will likely resolve with proper management.

Outlook for Bed-wetting

Most children outgrow Bed-wetting 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 Bed-wetting.

Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on July 6, 2017Written by Jacquelyn Cafasso

10 possible conditions

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose. Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.

Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on July 6, 2017Written by Jacquelyn Cafasso
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