Bed wetting sleep disorder, also known as sleep enuresis or nocturnal enuresis, is a common pediatric sleep disorder. Bed wetting means that a child isn't able to stay dry through the night. Of course, babies don't have control over their bladder (or bowels). Yet, as they grow and develop, their ability to control their bladder matures, as well.
Research shows that toddler bed wetting occurs in about half of all children under three years old, decreasing to around 12% by the time children reach the age of six. Only around 1% of adolescents are affected.
As with night terrors, bed wetting sleep disorder is more common in boys than in girls, and has a genetic component
Every child is different and, for some kids, bladder control takes a longer time to mature. There can also be physical or emotional reasons for a child to wet the bed on a regular basis.
Some children sleep very deeply, and their brains simply don't register the "I need to go to the bathroom" signals. Others may have smaller than average bladders. Consuming too much liquid in the evenings can exacerbate the condition.
In some cases, a urinary tract, bladder or kidney infection may cause a bed wetting sleep disorder. That's why it is important to always talk with your child's doctor to rule out (or treat) any health condition.
In addition to physically based health concerns, emotional distress, such as that caused by divorce, a death in the family, bullying at school, or even abuse can result in bed wetting.
What You Can Do
If your little one has been wetting his or her bed, patience and understanding are about all that are needed while you wait for him to outgrow this condition (which eventually happens, although the waiting can seem interminable).
Practical things, like getting him or her to wear pull-ups or absorbent pads, putting a plastic sheet over the mattress, limiting fluid intake in the evenings, and keeping pre-bedtime activities quiet and low-key can also help.
Don't shame or scold your child, bed wetting sleep disorder is something he or she simply can't help. Causing upset or stress over the situation will only make it worse, not better. Your son or daughter may already feel embarrassed or ashamed, so bolster self confidence and down play the problem as much as possible.
If your child has been dry at night for some time, and then starts to have bed wetting episodes, it's important to look for the reason behind this behavior and talk with a pediatrician.
The bed wetting (or secondary enuresis) may be the result of infection, as mentioned above. Look for cloudy urine, frequent and urgent need to urinate during waking hours, pain while urinating, fever or lower back pain. One or a combination of these symptoms suggest an infection could be present.
However, there could also be an emotional reason behind children bedwetting in this way. Stress or anxiety over any number of life events may be the root cause and talking gently (and in a non-punitive way) may be very helpful.
If an underlying health issue is ruled out and you are confident that no undisclosed trauma is at the root of it all, simply waiting it out with loving patience is the best course of action. However, if the condition persists into adolescence, seek medical help to reduce the chances of this being a life-long problem.