Q: What is the root of bed-wetting?
A: Bed-wetting, or enuresis, is a more common occurrence than most people realize. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about twenty-five percent of 5 year olds, and ten percent of 6 year olds wet their beds. Bed-wetting is often attributed to a psychological or anxiety disorder, but new research is actually proving that this is not always the case. Below are some common causes of bed-wetting:
- Genetics: If both parents wet their beds after the age of 6, there is a 75% chance that the child will wet his bed as well. If only one parent wet the bed, there is still a 44% chance of bed-wetting.
- Developmental lag: Just as some children are late talkers or walkers, there are children who are late in controlling their bladder while sleeping. Eventually, even with a lag, all children learn to walk or talk, so too, they will learn how to stay dry at night.
- Deep sleep: Some children sleep so deeply, they cannot recognize when their bladder is full and therefore do not have enough time to get to the bathroom.
- Small bladder: Physically, the child might have a small bladder and therefore the bladder might overfill at night, causing nighttime urination.
While extremely frustrating to the parent, the American Academy of Family Physicians states that up until the age of six, bed-wetting is not abnormal. After the age of six, they suggest several methods in order to prevent it:
- Limit fluids before bedtime.
- Have your child go to the bathroom at the beginning of the nighttime routine and then again right before sleep.
- Create a reward system for dry nights.
- Ask your child to change the sheets after they get wet.
- Have your child train his bladder by holding his urine for longer times during the day.
While encouraging your child to take responsibility for bed-wetting (like asking him to change the sheets), remember that it is important not to get angry or inflict guilt in your child. He is not bed-wetting because he is too lazy to get out of bed, so punishing him for actions that are beyond his control (and probably already cause him embarrassment) will only worsen the problem.
In some rare cases, bed-wetting can be triggered by anxiety. A divorce, move, or death in the family can significantly stress parents and children. The resulting change in lifestyle might prompt a child to begin bed-wetting. For instance, if the family moves from one city to another, parents might assume that the child is having trouble holding his bladder at night because of the emotional stress of leaving his old friends behind. However, the new floor plan of the house might be the true culprit. The child is not used to going to the bathroom down the hall, as he was used to the one right next door in his old home.
Finding the root of bed-wetting – whether genetic, physical, or emotional – is the first step towards curing it. Nonetheless, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that if your child had a choice, he wouldn’t wet his bed. Therefore, large servings of both compassion and patience are also necessary remedies for the problem.