Ashamed children, damp pajamas, and wet bed sheets are common morning episodes in most households. Bed-wetting is a condition that plagues children worldwide. Read on to understand why your child wets his bed at night and what you can do to stop his bed-wetting.
What is Bed-Wetting?
Bed-wetting is also referred to as sleep-wetting and by its scientific name, 'nocturnal enuresis'. It is a term given to the uncontrolled passing of urine while a person is asleep. It affects people of all ages, but is usually seen in young children, under the age of six. Roughly 13% of children aged 6 wet the bed, whereas approximately 5% of kids aged 10 are still bed-wetters. Sixty percent of all bed-wetters are males and ninety percent of them wet the bed almost every night.
Bed-wetting does not, in any way, indicate that you have failed in toilet-training your child. Bed-wetting is a common factor associated with child development.
Your child may be able to control his bladder during the day as the brain and bladder communication is at its peak when the child is awake, but when the child is in a deep sleep, it takes more maturation before the bladder and brain can communicate as well in the night as they do during the day.
What are the Causes of Bed-Wetting?
Bed-wetting can occur due to a number of reasons.
In most cases, bed-wetting is an inherited trait. If one or both parents wet the bed as children, the chances of their child also becoming a bed-wetter increase by around fifty percent. However, in such cases, the child usually stops at the same age that the parent did. Some scientists have also put forward a theory that bed-wetting is associated with certain genes.
A child with a smaller bladder than normal is more likely to suffer from bed-wetting. There could also be a problem with the valve that controls the flow of urine from the bladder. Children who are constipated might suffer from bed-wetting due to the pressure put on the bladder by a full bowel. A urinary tract infection also increases the chances of bed-wetting.
In some children, the brain takes longer to develop voluntary control over certain bodily functions. Thus, a child may wet the bed because his body has simply not yet learnt to control the bladder. Children may also wet the bed if there is insufficient production of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone prevents the loss of water from the body, in the form of urine. Generally, there are higher levels of this hormone produced at night, which may not happen in children and result in bed-wetting. Low levels of ADH also make it difficult for a person to wake up, which could explain why children who wet the bed are usually very heavy sleepers.
Children who are stressed are believed to be more likely to suffer from bed-wetting. Many children, who have previously been normal, suddenly start wetting the bed at night. This could be in response to certain stressful events such as moving to a new home, beginning school, conflict between parents, the arrival of a new child, being abused, etc. However, there is not sufficient scientific evidence to support this theory.
How does Bed-Wetting Affect Children?
Bed-wetting is not physically painful, but such children might suffer from emotional problems. This is largely due to the stigma associated with bed-wetting. Some children may become victims of punishments meted out to them for their bed-wetting. Others may be belittled by their uninformed parents or taunted by their siblings. Punishing or teasing your children will only harm their self esteem and make it more difficult for them to stop.
Bed-wetting also prevents children from attending certain social activities like sleepovers and overnight trips. Children who are unable to join in these gatherings may find themselves missing out on spending quality time with their peers for no fault of theirs.
How Can You Get Your Child to Stop Bed-Wetting?
The first thing to remember is that bed-wetting is an involuntary response. A child does not deliberately wet the bed. He just cannot control the flow of urine while he is asleep. Almost all children wet their bed till their bodies learn to control their bladder. Thus, bed-wetting until the age of five or six is perceived to be a common occurrence and is usually not considered a problem.
There are some basic steps that parents can take to minimise a child's bed-wetting:
The simplest way is to limit a child's fluid intake a few hours before bedtime.
Encourage your child to visit the toilet before he goes to sleep.
If necessary, wake him up once during the night so that he can empty his bladder.
Bed-wetting may increase with a drop in temperature, so make sure your child is dressed in warm clothing.
If you wish, make your child wear diapers to reduce his embarrassment and prevent him from making a mess.
Try using bed-wetting alarms that will awaken your child as soon as he starts wetting his bed. Consistent use of the alarms will soon cause your child to instinctively awaken before he has to urinate.
In severe cases of bed-wetting, it is better to consult a doctor to detect the underlying cause. He may prescribe a hormonal supplement to compensate for the low levels of ADH. He may also recommend exercises to strengthen the bladder.
Bed-wetting is not a disease. It is simply an unfortunate condition that affects children not just physically, but mentally as well. However, it can be easily cured and in most cases, the best healer is time.