Why Do Older Children Bed-wet?


Bed-wetting, as discussed here, also called nocturnal enuresis or nighttime incontinence is involuntary urination while asleep after the age which it is expected to stay dry at night.
Really, before age 7, bed-wetting isn’t anything to worry about because nighttime bladder control is still being developed. At age 5, a number of children have full control of urination, especially at their wakeful times, but may not have full bladder control while asleep yet. Whatever the case is, it may not be so much of a problem as you have thought. Remember that all these aren’t fixed. They vary by children and the environment.

When bed-wetting doesn`t stop when expected, what are its causes?

So for instance, your 12-year-old still bed-wets, what are the possible causes?

Hormone Imbalance

Some children don’t produce enough anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) which helps reduce nighttime urine production. So urine production happens as it does during the day, hence bed-wetting.

Urinary Tract Infection 

This infection causes difficulty in urination control.

Sleep Apnea

This is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Loud snores and tiredness after a full night’s sleep are symptoms of sleep apnea. It is usually caused by inflamed or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. This condition causes bed-wetting.

The Nature of the Bladder

The capacity and/or level of development of a child’s bladder may be a reason they bed-wet. Their bladder may not be developed enough to contain urine produced during the night.

Inability to Recognize a Full Bladder

If there is a slow maturity of nerves that control the bladder, then a child may not wake up when the bladder is full, especially if they sleep deep.

Chronic Constipation

The muscles used to control urine are those used in controlling stool too. When constipation is long term, these muscles can become dysfunctional, then cause bed-wetting.

Stress and Anxiety

Image source (9)
Image source (9)

Some events are unusually stressful, hence they get children emotionally worked up. Becoming a big sister or brother, starting a new school, sleeping away from home, and some other factors may trigger bed-wetting.


blood sugar

Diabetes comes with a number of symptoms in children. Bed-wetting is one of them. Others are large amounts of urine being passed out at a time, fatigue, increased thirst, weight loss and even more.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Image source (9)
Image source (9)

ADHD too can be a cause of bed-wetting.

Family History

If any of a child’s parents wet the bed as children, there is a tendency the child too will bed-wet.

Myths and Facts about Bed-Wetting

Because reasons for bedwetting have not been for long by many, a number of myths have been generated. Sadly, children have got reactions from parents and guardians based on these long-believed fallacies. Let`s debunk them, one after another. Unlearn them, will you?

  • Myth 1

The cause of bedwetting is the same in all children.

  • Fact

There are common causes of bedwetting, however, causes vary among children. Some common causes are a delay in bladder development and under-production of anti-diuretic hormone. Some children experience uncommon causes such as grief and stress.

  • Myth 2

Your child will eventually grow out of bedwetting, so you may just ignore it

  • Fact

Inasmuch as some children stop bed-wetting eventually, children can’t be left to stop whenever. Bed-wetting shouldn’t be ignored. A fuss shouldn’t be made over it either. This phase is a time when your child needs your support and advice. Help them overcome whatever the society has made them feel about it. It’s important to help them understand that it’s not their fault. You also need to come up with a management plan to help curb it. Getting professional support from a medical practitioner is key.

For children who just began to bed-wet after a while of not doing it, you might want to investigate into certain environmental changes that might have triggered it.

  • Myth 3

Waking your child in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom will end bedwetting.

  • Fact

In trying to help children avoid bed-wetting, parents and guardians wake them up at intervals to visit the bathroom. The only advantage this may have is that there is a higher tendency that the sheets will remain dry. But really, it doesn’t address any of the possible reasons the child may be bed-wetting. It may even frustrate the child if they don’t need to urinate at the times they’re woken up. It may disrupt their sleep pattern too.

  • Myth 4

Bedwetting is caused by drinking excessively before bedtime.

  • Fact

Really, if a child never had the tendency to bed-wet, drinking too much before bedtime won’t suddenly make them do so. The excess drink wouldn’t hinder the child’s ability to wake up to wake up to pass out urine. Maybe limiting the child’s intake of sugary or caffeinated drinks a couple of hours before bed may help, but certainly not water.

  • Myth 5

Properly toilet-trained children don’t wet the bed.

  • Fact

Urine control during the day is completely different from that of the night while sleeping because the factors at play aren’t the same.

  • Myth 6

Children wet the bed when they are too lazy to go to the bathroom.

  • Fact

This is a belief that makes parents blame their child for wetting the bed, leading to scolding cum embarrassment. In many cases, it isn’t true. Especially when it’s recurrent.

  • Myth 7

Punishing your child for wetting the bed will help them stop.

  • Fact

If you remember that your child has no control over the situation, then be sure that punishment won’t be effective. It’ll only reduce the child’s self-esteem. Reward the child or not bed-wetting, on the other hand, won’t help the situation because when they bed-wet, they’ll feel bad about not meeting the expectation, hence missing the reward.

  • Myth 8

Prescription medication will end bedwetting.

  • Fact

Maybe for short sleepovers and school camps, yes, but isn’t a cure, really. There have been reports of children who start bedwetting again shortly after stopping such medications.

More Facts about Bed-Wetting

Having unlearnt the above-stated myths about bed-wetting, get ready to embrace some facts. These will further help you understand this condition, and treat those undergoing it better.

  • There are two common types of bedwetting: primary nocturnal enuresis and secondary nocturnal enuresis. A child who has always wet the bed is going through primary nocturnal enuresis, while one who was dry at night for over six months but then starts wetting the bed again is experiencing secondary nocturnal enuresis.
  • Primary nocturnal enuresis is the more common type of bed-wetting.
  • As for secondary nocturnal enuresis, emotional stress can be a trigger.
  • Medical conditions rarely cause bed-wetting. A number of children will outgrow it. Some only outgrow it late.
  • Male children have a higher tendency to bed-wet than female children.

Final Words…

So this, we hope, will bring about a better treatment of children who bed-wet. For children who experience secondary nocturnal enuresis, for instance, adding the stigma of bed-wetting may add to whatever emotional situation they may be experiencing. So sadly, in a bid to stop children from bed-wetting, parents and guardians actually worsen the situation, unknowingly.

So who owes a child an apology? Maybe now is the time to apologize and properly help the child, if the condition is still ongoing. Children deserve care. The care they get, or absence of it, determines who they grow up to be.