Bedwetting (Nocturnal Enuresis)
What is bedwetting?
Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is the nighttime release of urine by children older than 6.
Almost all children who wet the bed have always wet the bed. Some children may have periods
of nighttime dryness and then start wetting again.
How common is it?
Wetting the bed is a common problem. Approximately 20% of 6 year old children experience
nocturnal enuresis. It occurs more often in boys than girls. By the age of 12 years 8 out of 100
boys and 4 out of 100 girls are still wetting the bed at night.
What causes bedwetting?
The cause is not known. Recent studies suggest there may be many reasons for a child to wet the
bed. Wetting the bed often runs in families. If one or both parents wet the bed when they were
children, there is greater chance that their child will wet the bed. However, some children wet the
bed even if neither parent did.
Although children who wet the bed are very deep sleepers, this is not a sleep disorder. It is not
known why children who wet the bed do not wake up when their bladders are full. This may be
because the arousal center of the brain is slow to mature.
Diet can play a role. For instance, we know that caffeine irritates the bladder. It also causes
more urine to be produced. Constipation and infrequent bowel movements will also play a role
in nighttime bedwetting. A large amount of stool in the rectum will push on the bladder, making
the bladder smaller and making it contract before it is full.
Wetting the bed is not a sign of a mental problem. Children who wet the bed are not lazy or bad.
They have little control over this problem, and they should not be punished. With patience,
knowledge, and positive reward for success, bedwetting can be managed and controlled.
How is bedwetting treated?
Bedwetting maybe treated by using alarm therapy or medicines. Parents and guardians should be
given the information and education that will help them support their child. In many cases, your
doctor or nurse will suggest treatment that may include all treatments.
Alarm therapy has a good success rate for many children. A child wears the alarm at night. A
small clip is attached to their underwear. When a child begins to wet, the alarm goes off. This
treatment needs a commitment from both the family and child. It can have great success, but
may take up to 4 – 6 months to work. Unfortunately, most insurance companies will not provide
payment for a bedwetting alarm.
Less fluids in the evening
Your provider can also give you information about drinking and eating that may help slow down
or stop bedwetting at night. Children should not have drinks with caffeine as the caffeine can
make the bedwetting worse. Parents need to talk with their provider about how to help a child
drink less in the evening, especially two hours before bedtime.
Your provider may suggest a trial of medicine to control bedwetting. DDAVP (desmopressin
acetate) is a synthetic form of a hormone made in the body. Less urine is produced at night.
This medicine works well in most children who use it. This medicine should be taken right
before bedtime with a few sips of water. Children must drink less fluids 1 – 1 ½ hours before
taking the medicine. If you child can’t drink less before bedtime, this medicine will not be
prescribed. Parents should talk to their care team about whether this medicine is right for their
What do I do if I have more questions?
Call the Pediatric Urology Clinic between the hours of 8 – 4:30, Monday – Friday at
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942. Ask for the Pediatric Urology Clinic.
For more information:
The websites listed below may provide more information about bedwetting, as well as how to
order a bedwetting alarm.
The Bedwetting Store
Medication for Bedwetting – DDAVP by Aventis
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 11/2015. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6103