Children Who Wet the Bed: Causes and Treatment

January 24, 2019

Wetting the bed is a common problem amongst children. Known by doctors and psychologists as nocturnal enuresis (or urinary incontinence), it happens when little ones cannot control their bladder and wet the bed whilst they sleep.

There are also cases of daytime enuresis. All parents should pay attention to this article. What is the main reason why children wet the bed?  Find out more in this article.

What is enuresis?


Enuresis is the unintentional passage of urine by children 4 years of age or older. It usually happens while they are asleep, but can also happen during the day. This article covers children that wet the bed at night and the possible solutions.

Bowel or bladder control is a natural process that develops as a child grows, changes and learns. This mechanism reaches maturity between 15 and 18 months of age, depending on various factors. For example, if parents have taught their child to use the bathroom alone and have slowly stopped using diapers.

At this moment, the child already knows “how to go pee pee” by himself (or, at least, is in the learning phase). There are many techniques used by parents to potty train their children, such as putting on underwear so they learn the feeling of wetness.

If successful, then the child will go to the bathroom like adults do and let someone know when he needs to go pee. From the age of four or five years, a child is physiologically mature enough to go to the toilet without help.

angry child


Children who wet the bed at night

Many children still continue to wet the bed at night. Their brain does not realize that they need the toilet and regresses to the time when they wore diapers.

However, this can result in wet sheets and blankets, crying, nightmares, and worried parents. Nighttime bedwetting usually appears when a child is around five years of age. It can be intermittent or nightly and, in a few severe cases, continue into adolescence.

There are many different ways to treat a child who wets the bed at night, from psychological to medical. Whilst it is important to get to the root of the problem it is vital that parents remain calm. Do not get angry, punish the child or yell.

Remember children who wet the bed can develop depression, shame, timidity and low self-esteem. If parents berate the child, then the situation will not improve but become worse. Understanding the circumstances and helping the child to overcome this will help the child improve.

self-reliance in children

The possible causes of nighttime bedwetting are:

  • Small bladder (if the child goes to the bathroom a lot during the day).
  • Inadequate potty training.
  • Stress, nervousness, anxiety, changes in the home, separation from the parents, problems in school, or fights with his siblings.
  • Starting too early, or too late, with potty training.

Issues that should be considered when children wet the bed

It is necessary to give him/her your time

If the child is 5 years old and wets the bed during the night, do not run to the doctor if it only happens once. If it happens repeatedly or every night, then medical advice may be needed. It is normal for a child to wet the bed up to the age of 8.

Do not blame or make fun of the child

Punishment will achieve nothing. The child is not responsible for the fact they wet the bed. It may result in more stress and feelings of being disobedient.

You may be interested in: Mindefullness for Children and Young Adults

Do not return to using diapers


For a variety of reasons: first, because the idea is that the child grows and matures and does not regress. Second, because if he continues to use diapers he will become accustomed to peeing during the night. Finally, it could shame the child.

Do not make the mistake of refusing to let him drink water

Avoiding the consumption of water is pointless. The aim is not that the child has less urge to urinate, but that he learns how to control urination while sleeping.

Read why your child should drink water: 5 Surprising Benefits of Drinking Water

Do not wake him up during the middle of the night

In this way, the child will go to the bathroom “if you want”. It also interrupts the child’s sleeping pattern.  It is better that the child learns to recognize his body’s message to pee for themselves and wakes up, even when they are in the deepest state of sleep.

Finally, and as a way to reflect, it is good to bear the child’s emotions in mind. They are at an age where they can remember embarrassing situations. Teach your child to trust you and to express their feelings.

  • Harari, M. (1999). Nocturnal enuresis. Australian Family Physician.
  • McLain, L. G. (1979). Childhood enuresis. Current Problems in Pediatrics.
  • Rodríguez Fernández, L.M., Gracia Manzano, S. Diagnóstico y tratamiento de la enuresis nocturna. Asociación Española de Pediatría.