With so much information about bedwetting available online, it can be difficult for families to unpick what is right and what is wrong. In this blog as part of the Bladder & Bowel UK series for World Bedwetting Week we will discuss the myths and facts about bedwetting.
Children wet the bed because they can’t be bothered to get up at night? This is a myth.
Children do not wet the bed because they are too lazy or naughty to get up and go to the toilet at night. Children who have bedwetting are not able to wake up to the bladder signalling that it needs to empty.
If children are frustrated by bedwetting, or worried that they are going to get into trouble because of it they may respond by trying to hide the problem and any wet clothes or sheets. If children are using disposable nappies or pants, they may sometimes use these when they are awake. This might be because they are frightened to go to the toilet in the dark, or they are worried about waking other family members.
Children should not be punished for bedwetting. This will not help and may even make the problem worse. Bedwetting is not caused by anything you or child has done or is doing wrong.
Bedwetting caused by deep sleep? This is a myth.
Children who wet the bed are not able to wake to the signals to the bladder that it needs to empty. However, this is not usually a problem of sleeping too deeply, rather it is a problem of not being able to wake up.
Although the children continue to sleep through bladder emptying, the signals from the bladder to the brain that the toilet is needed do disturb their sleep. Therefore, children who are wet at night tend to have sleep that is of a poorer quality than children who are dry at night. This can make them more tired and may make it even more difficult for them to then wake up when their bladder needs to empty.
Bedwetting caused by drinking too much during the day? This is a myth.
Many children do not drink as much during the day as is recommended. If this is the case, the bladder wall muscles do not get the opportunity to stretch well during bladder filling, so the bladder may not be able to hold as much urine as it should. If the bladder is small it cannot hold all the urine made overnight, increasing the likelihood of wetting.
Children who are not drinking well are also more likely to be constipated. About half of children with bedwetting also have constipation. Treatment for constipation may help improve bedwetting for some children and may make treatments for bedwetting to more effective.
|Recommended water-based fluid intake for children|
|Age||Gender||Total drinks per day|
|4 – 8 years||Female Male||1200 – 1400mls 1200 – 1400mls|
|9 – 13 years||Female Male||1200 – 2100mls 1400 – 2300mls|
|14 – 18 years||Female Male||1400 – 2500mls 2100 – 3200mls|
Bedwetting caused by drinking too much in the evening? This may be true.
Having a drink just before going to sleep may make bedwetting more likely to happen. Therefore, while it is recommended that children should drink plenty of water-based drinks during the day, they should avoid having a drink in the last hour before they go to sleep. It is also advised that they do not eat in the last hour before going to bed.
Bedwetting is caused by drinking the wrong type of fluids? This may be true.
Fizzy drinks and drinks with caffeine in them (tea, coffee, chocolate and many energy drinks) can irritate the lining of the bladder. Caffeine can also increase the amount of urine produced, increasing the number of visits to the toilet. Therefore, fizzy and caffeinated drinks should be avoided, particularly in the evenings.
Some people also advise against blackcurrant squash and other dark coloured drinks. There is a natural ingredient in blackcurrant that may irritate the bladder. However, it does not affect everyone. All children are different. Therefore, if you think that bedwetting might be linked to the type of drink your child is having, try to avoid that drink for a few days and see if the bedwetting improves. If it does there may be a link.
Taking the child to the toilet during the night will cure bedwetting. This is a myth.
Many parents take their child to the toilet during the night. While this may keep the bed dry, and can be useful when sleeping away from home, it does not help with the underlying cause of the bedwetting. Furthermore, there is a suggestion that waking children for the toilet during the night may make the bedwetting continue. This is because it is not teaching the children to wake to their bladder signals and may encourage them to pass urine during sleep, if they are not fully awake when taken to the toilet.
Waking or lifting children during the night is no longer recommended. However, if your child does wake independently during the night, it can be helpful to encourage them to use the toilet before going back to sleep.
Children with disabilities cannot be treated for bedwetting. This is a myth.
Children with disabilities should have typically developing bladder and bowels. Once they have been dry in the day for six months or more and are over five years old, they should be offered assessment and support for bedwetting.
Bedwetting is caused by stress or psychological problems. This may be the case for some children.
Night-time wetting can start after a period of dry nights where there has been a stressful life event. However, it is more common for children to experience stress about the ongoing wetting than it is for stress to cause the wetting. Therefore, it should not be assumed that when the stress reduces the wetting will get better. All children who have bedwetting should be offered assessment and appropriate treatment.
Bedwetting will get better on its own as children get older. This might happen for some children.
Bedwetting is more common in younger children, with about 80% of children becoming dry at night before they reach their fifth birthday. After this age, many who continue to wet the bed only do so occasionally. These children are most likely to get better on their own. However, children who are wet two or more nights a week should be treated.
Bedwetting does not affect teenagers or adults. This is a myth.
Bedwetting can affect people of all ages. If older children, teenagers or adults are experiencing bedwetting they should talk to their healthcare professional about the options open to them.
There is more information on bedwetting in adults on the Bladder & Bowel UK website – www.bbuk.org.uk/adults/adults-resources – and there will be more blog posts published as part of this series for World Bedwetting Week.
Bedwetting is a difficult condition for many people. This is true.
Bedwetting can cause embarrassment and shame. It is associated with reduce self-esteem, bullying, difficulty sleeping away from home and disturbed sleep. It can also be expensive due to increased washing, and the need for extra bedding and pyjamas.
Bedwetting can and should be treated. This is true.
Children who are more than five years old who are still wet at night should be offered an assessment of their bladder and bowel health and basic advice. If making simple changes as outlined above does not help, then there is treatment available. Ask your healthcare professional for advice and support. They may also be able to refer you for specialist help if required.
You can find more information on the Bladder & Bowel UK website – www.bbuk.org.uk/children-young-people/resources-for-children – or contact the Bladder & Bowel UK helpline for free confidential advice at https://www.bbuk.org.uk/enquiries. There is information on how to speak to your healthcare professional from Stop Bedwetting – www.stopbedwetting.org.