Why your child wets the bed

Why does your child wet the bed? To put it simply, they can't help it. Your child doesn't wet the bed because they are unhappy at school or looking for more attention at home. They don't wet the bed because they are too lazy to walk to the bathroom during the night or because they are trying to make your life stressful.

Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis as it is medically termed, is a physical problem caused by a number of factors. These include:

  • genetic factors: Children with a parent who wet the bed when they were young are far more likely to wet the bed as well. If both parents wet the bed as children, the risk that a child will also be affected by bedwetting is even higher - as much as 85%, compared to a 15% risk faced by children with no family history of bedwetting.
  • messenger imbalance: During sleep, we produce messengers telling the body to slow urine production, so that we don't have to get up to go to the bathroom all night. Some children don't send enough of these messengers, so their bladders get fuller than those of children who produce adequate amounts.
  • slow nervous system development: For some children, the parts of the nervous system that recognize a full bladder and allow your child to wake up and go to the bathroom without wetting the bed may be slow to develop.
  • small bladder: If your child's bladder isn't fully developed, it may not be big enough to hold all the urine produced during the night, so it overfills and causes the child to wet the bed.

Bedwetting may also be an indication of another serious medical problem, including a urinary tract infection, problems with your child's urinary system, diabetes, sleep apnea, or constipation - yet another reason why you should talk to your child's doctor if soggy nights are a problem in your household. Sometimes bedwetting can also be triggered by a stressful event.

Though these causes are all beyond the child's control, many parents mistakenly believe that a child who wets the bed is doing so because they are looking for attention, rebelling against their parents, acting out, or have other emotional problems. But studies have shown that children who wet the bed start out no different psychologically from their peers who don't. In fact, it appears that the higher incidence of self-esteem issues, stress, and other psychological problems in children who wet the bed are a result of the bedwetting - they aren't the reason a child wets the bed in the first place.