As many as 7 million children in the United States wet the bed on a regular basis, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and the problem is more common in boys. The age at which children are fully potty trained varies, so bed-wetting can simply be the result of immaturity. However, problem bed-wetting can also be caused by physical or neurological factors, so it is important to discuss the issue with your pediatrician.
In very young children, bed-wetting may occur because the brain is not yet sending the body the signal to hold the urine. However, there are other possible causes for bed-wetting. A child's bladder might be small or fill very rapidly, leading to accidents. Some children may sleep deeply and not be awakened by the urge to urinate. Physical causes can include an infection or blockage in the urinary tract. If a child has been dry throughout the night but suddenly starts wetting, a psychological issue such as stress or trauma might be the cause. Bed-wetting can also be genetic.
Toddlers and preschoolers may be wetting the bed because they have not yet achieved full bladder control. There are a few things you can do to help the process. For example, never scold or blame your child for bed-wetting, which will only foster shame and potentially make the problem worse. Instead, praise your child when he has a dry night. You can also help by limiting beverages before bed and encouraging your child to use the bathroom just before going to sleep. If you know what time your child usually wets the bed, set an alarm to wake him just before it happens.
Most older children do not experience chronic bed-wetting unless there is a health problem. However, if you have an older child who experiences occasional wet nights, you can help him by using a moisture alarm. The sensor is placed in the underwear, and if moisture is detected, it sets off an alarm to wake your child. The alarm can help your child become more attuned to the sense of urgency and to wake when he feels it. You can also wake your child if you know what times he usually wets the bed.
The National Sleep Foundation says that bed-wetting is not considered to be a problem until the child is at least 7. Children over 5 who wet the bed more than two to three times a month should also see a doctor. Secondary bed-wetting is also considered a problem. Secondary bed-wetting occurs after a child has had dry nights for at least six months. Of course, you can talk to a doctor at any time about the issue and any concerns you may have for your child. Your doctor can rule out physical causes and make suggestions to improve the situation.