What is bed wetting?

Nocturnal Enuresis, or bed wetting as it’s more commonly known, can be very worrying, often causing frustration and embarrassment in both children and adults.

Many people wet the bed, with 1 in every 1001 people affected throughout their adult life. However, very few adults speak about it. So, if you’re suffering from Nocturnal Enuresis, just remember that you’re not alone. Some people wet the bed regularly from a young age, while others may stop during childhood and begin again in adulthood.

Bed wetting can be a very stressful experience, affecting relationships and damaging your self-esteem. It can cause practical problems too, including having to frequently change wet sheets and bedding. This in turn can have a huge effect on staying away overnight and going on holiday.

What causes bed wetting?

Causes of bed wetting can differ depending on how long you have suffered with it. However, in some cases, you may just produce larger amounts of urine during the night. It could be related to any of the following:

1. Muscle and Nerve Control

The necessary nerve and muscle control for your bladder to work correctly may not have developed, meaning that your bladder muscle contracts and empties when it’s only half full of urine. The mechanisms that reduce urine production at night have not developed.

2. Sleep Apnoea

Since breathing during sleep can be difficult for those with sleep apnoea, the brain works harder to take in oxygen than it does to control other bodily functions, like bladder control. Find out more about sleep apnoea here.

3. Urine infection

If you have a urine infection, this will irritate your bladder, making you need the toilet more frequently.

4. Diabetes

This is a condition which means your blood sugar is too high. Your kidneys produce lots of sugary urine to lower the sugar. You will pass more urine and if you have weak bladder control, so you could suffer from bed wetting.

5. Alcohol, coffee or diuretic medicines

Diuretics are medicines that encourage the kidney to make more urine, and are used to treat high blood pressure. It’s recommended that you avoid taking a diuretic at bedtime as you’ll need to pass urine during the night. This can cause bed wetting if you have weak bladder control. Alcohol and coffee have a similar effect, so it’s advised that you avoid them within 3 hours of bedtime.

6. Sleeping Tablets

Although sleeping tablets can improve your sleep, it can also mean that you don’t wake up when you have a full bladder, causing you to wet the bed.

Bed wetting in children

Most children outgrow bed-wetting by about seven years old. By this age, bladder control is stronger and fully developed. Lifestyle changes, medical treatment and support from family and friends can help children combat bed wetting.

In the UK, it’s estimated that2:

  • 1 in 12 children aged four and half years old wet the bed at least twice a week
  • 1 in 40 children at seven and half years old regularly wet the bed
  • At nine and half years old, 1 in 65 children wet the bed regularly

Read this article for help treating your child’s bed-wetting habits.

Adult bed wetting

It’s estimated that around 1 in 100 people continue to wet the bed into adulthood (primary enuresis), with some people starting to wet the bed when they come into adulthood (secondary enuresis).

This usually requires referral to a specialist, such as a urologist (a specialist in treating conditions that affect the urinary system) or an incontinence adviser.

Learn more about adult bed wetting here.

Bedding essentials to keep you dry at night

Waterproof mattress and pillow protectors are essentials tools for coping with bed wetting.

Reusable Bed Pads take away the stress of having to change the whole bed. An absorbable bed pad is perfect for endless uses from pregnancy to old age, and everything in between.

It’s also worth considering a bed wetting alarm. This involves wearing a small sensor on your underwear and an alarm on your pyjamas. If the sensor starts to get wet, it simply sets off the alarm. Overtime, the alarm should help you recognise when you need to get up and go to the toilet.

Read more about waterproof bedding here.

What can I do to stop my bed wetting?

Firstly, it’s important to remember that bed wetting is not your fault, so there is no need to feel guilty or embarrassed. If bed wetting is happening frequently, it’s important to see your doctor. You must clearly state that your problem is wetting the bed and don’t pass it off as cystitis or another urine problem – the doctor’s guesswork doesn’t usually pay off! It’s recommended that you keep a diary detailing your bed wetting patterns 2-3 weeks prior to visiting your doctor.

Sometimes wetting the bed can be a sign of a more serious problem – read this article to find out when you should visit your GP.

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