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SSM Health Medical Minute: Bed-wetting solutions for parents

ST. LOUIS - Bed-wetting, also known as nighttime incontinence or nocturnal enuresis, is not a sign of toilet training gone bad. It is often just a developmental stage. Bed-wetting is, by far, most common in children.

Children who have never been dry at night are considered to have primary enuresis. Children who begin to wet the bed after at least six months of dry nights are considered to have secondary enuresis.

Generally, bed-wetting before age six or seven isn't a cause for concern. At this age, nighttime bladder control simply may not be established. If bed-wetting continues, treat the problem with patience and understanding. Bladder training, moisture alarms or medication may help. In general, bed-wetting is more prevalent in boys than girls.

No one knows for sure what causes bed-wetting, but various factors may play a role:

  • A small bladder
  • Inability to recognize a full bladder
  • A hormone imbalance
  • Stress
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic constipation
  • Anatomical defect

Dr. Tim Phillips, a pediatric urologist with SLUCare and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, says the causes of bed-wetting can vary from a child who sleeps deeply and doesn’t respond to nerve signals from the bladder that tell them to wake up and urinate, "I generally tell parents that about ten percent of kids beyond the age of eight years old will continue to have some issue of wetting."

For others, a small bladder may be a factor,  "I always tell parents it doesn't mean your kids not smart it just means they have deep sleeping."  Dr. Phillips recommends the Bed Wetting Alarm,  "it senses moisture so it will alarm it will sound or vibrate at the time they have their wetting episode and that stimulus will help them develop that arousal center in the brain over time."

But for children who have more serious issues, a pediatric urologist can help diagnose the cause and recommend treatment.

Although bed-wetting is common with children, if you are concerned about this disorder, contact the SSM Center for Sleep Disorders and we will evaluate the circumstances, diagnose the cause and recommend treatment if needed.

To learn more about bed-wetting and treatment, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Wednesday at 7 PM on KPLR News 11 and at 9 PM on KTVI Fox 2 News.​

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