Why Kids Wet the Bed

By Howard J. Bennett

My 18-year-old daughter wet the bed until she was eleven years old. A cousin of mine wet the bed until he was ten. I didn’t wet the bed as a child, but I got interested in the problem when I was training to be a doctor. So you could say that bedwetting runs in my veins.

I sympathize with kids who wet the bed because it’s hard to deal with something that occurs when you’re sleeping. Even more frustrating is the fact that kids don’t know if it’s going to happen. Although some kids wet the bed every night, most do it less often. But the bottom line is that five million American children go to sleep at night not knowing if their bed will be wet or dry in the morning. Because it’s hard to appreciate how big the number five million is, keep this in mind: You would have to fill up a professional baseball stadium 100 times to find seats for five million people!

Most kids do not tell their friends if they wet the bed, which is understandable. However, because kids don’t talk about wetting the bed, a child who does often thinks he’s the only one with the problem. Now you know this isn’t true.

Bedwetting is hardly ever caused by a serious medical problem. In most cases, it happens because your bladder can’t hold all of the urine (pee) your body makes at night. If most people need to pee during the night, the bladder either relaxes to hold more urine or it sends a signal to the brain telling the person to wake up so he can go to the bathroom. Kids who wet the bed do not wake up when their bladder signals the brain that they have to go. Some kids don’t even wake up after they wet the bed. If your mom or dad says you’re a “deep sleeper,” that’s what they’re talking about.

So what can you do if you wet the bed at night? Well, the first thing to do is to let your doctor know what’s going on. It was recently discovered that most parents do not raise the issue at checkups either because they don’t think the doctor can help or they are afraid it will embarrass their child. Also, many doctors don’t ask if bedwetting is a problem because they figure you’d tell them if it were.

Bedwetting eventually stops, but there is no reason to wait for this to happen if you can do something to speed up the process. For example, your doctor might recommend medication or a small device you wear to bed that helps you wake up if you start to pee while you’re asleep.

You and your parents should remember the following:

• Bedwetting is a medical problem, so there is no reason to be embarrassed about it.

• No one wets the bed on purpose.


© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
(First published in the Washington Post 11/8/10.)

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please visit Dr. B’s website at  www.howardjbennett.com.