Nocturnal Enuresis (Bed Wetting)
Bed-wetting (nocturnal enuresis) means a child passes urine in the night when they are asleep. Many parents expect children aged 3 to be dry at night. Although many children are dry at this age, it is common to need nappies at night until school age. However, even beyond this age, bed-wetting is common. About 1 in 7 children aged 5, and 1 in 20 children aged 10 wet their bed at night. Bed-wetting is still considered normal in children under the age of 5 years.
A child who has never been dry at night has primary nocturnal enuresis. A child who has had a good period of dry nights, but then develops bed-wetting has secondary nocturnal enuresis. Bed-wetting is twice as common in boys as it is in girls.
In most children there is no specific cause. Bed-wetting is not your child’s fault. It occurs because the volume of urine produced at night is more than your child’s bladder can hold. The sensation of a full bladder does not seem to be strong enough to wake up your child at night.
Some factors are thought to make bed-wetting worse or more likely. They may tip the balance in some children on some nights. These include the following:
- Times of stress may start up bed-wetting again after a period of dryness. For example: starting school, arrival of a new baby, illness, bullying, abuse.
- Drinks and foods that contain caffeine. These include tea, coffee, cola and chocolate. Caffeine increases the amount of urine made by the kidneys (it is a diuretic).
- Constipation. Large stools (faeces) in the back passage (rectum) may press on and irritate the back of the bladder. In particular, children who have persistent (chronic) constipation are more likely to have a bed-wetting problem.
- Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have an increased risk of having a bed-wetting problem.