Bedwetting 101: Everything You Need to Know About Enuresis


Father and daughter huging
According to the experts at the National Sleep Foundation, up to 20 percent of 5-year-old children, 10 percent of 7-year-olds, and 5 percent of 10-year-old children wet the bed. All in all, that’s about 10 percent of all children aged 5 to 10 in the US! Your kid is not even close to being alone in having a bedwetting problem. But what exactly is bedwetting, why does it happen, and how can it be stopped? Our clever crew of Ninjamas set out on a long and perilous journey to investigate the matter, and here is what they’ve come up with.

The Basics of Bedwetting
Why Does Bedwetting Happen?
How Common Is Bedwetting?
Bedwetting Diagnosis and Treatment
Things You Can Do at Home to Help Manage Bedwetting
The Bottom Line on Bedwetting

The Basics of Bedwetting

Bedwetting (also known as sleep enuresis and nocturnal incontinence) is the thing your kid might involuntarily do while asleep. The age by which children are typically fully potty trained is about 5 years old, so it’s considered bedwetting and not a potty training accident once your little one is older than age 5.
There are two main types of bedwetting:
  • Primary enuresis is bedwetting in children who have never had nighttime control over their bladders before. It is the more common of the two types, with 75 percent of children who are affected by bedwetting falling under this category.
  • Secondary enuresis is when bedwetting pops up after a prolonged period of time in which the child has kept their urge to pee at night in check. As an example, your child may start to wet the bed after a long period in which they were successfully toilet trained because something has upset them like a change in schools or a new sleep environment.

Bedwetting can result not just in wet clothes and a damp bed, but also in a disrupted sleep cycle for all parties involved. Luckily there are some things you can do to help.

Why Does Bedwetting Happen?

Bedwetting involves A) your child’s kidneys, B) their bladder, and C) their brain. What’s the connection between the three? Let’s turn to biology to find out!
Firstly, it’s the kidneys’ job to generate the right amount of urine that can be contained within the bladder. When the bladder is full, it sends a signal to the brain, which is responsible for opening and closing the muscle (called the sphincter) which is kind of like the gate between the bladder and the urethra.
If everything works properly at night, the brain will either keep the sphincter shut until your child wakes up and goes to the toilet in the morning, or if the urge to pee is too great, the brain will tell them to wake up so that they can answer nature’s call.
If your child’s kidneys produce too much urine during the night; or if the link between the bladder and the brain isn’t fully developed yet; or if their bladder is not able to hold as much pee as the kidney produces, bedwetting accidents and soggy sheets are likely to happen.
Keep in mind, these physical aspects aren’t the only possible causes of bedwetting. Many things including family history, stress, constipation, and hormonal imbalances can also cause your child to wet the bed after the age of 5.

How Common Is Bedwetting?

About 10 percent of all children in the US between the ages of 5 and 10 are affected by bedwetting, meaning that more than 5 million children and their parents are tackling bedwetting right alongside you.
While girls make up 30 percent of those affected by bedwetting, boys develop enuresis at a rate of about 70 percent, meaning boys are more than twice as likely to wet the bed than girls. The reason behind this discrepancy is that girls tend to mature faster than boys.
Whether you have a boy or girl, the good news is that by age 15 all but 1 percent of kids outgrow their bedwetting ways. This is due to three simple facts:
  1. The bladder grows to hold more volume with age.
  2. Most children learn how to control their sphincter and pelvic floor muscles (responsible for keeping or releasing urine from the bladder) by this age.
  3. As children grow, their brain also matures, which is important for bladder control.

If you’re struggling with a bedwetting issue in your home, be patient. Most children will overcome enuresis and achieve dry nights soon enough.

Bedwetting Diagnosis and Treatment

While you may want to have a heart-to-heart with your child about the possible underlying causes of their bedwetting, it’s equally important to talk to your kid’s healthcare provider about your bedwetting concerns.
If your child is over the age of 5 and still has frequent nighttime accidents, make an appointment with your child’s provider for an evaluation. First, they will ask about your child’s medical history. Then your child may have a physical exam and tests to rule out medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or diabetes. The tests may include urine and blood tests to measure blood sugar levels, hormones, and kidney function.
When all of that is sorted out, your child’s provider can give you information, advice, or a specific treatment plan to help you and your child overcome this experience.
Taking into account that nocturnal enuresis usually ends on its own eventually, treatment may not always be necessary – however, if your youngster’s self-esteem is affected or if it stops them from leading a normal social life (for example, by having to skip sleepovers or summer camp because of the bedwetting), your child’s healthcare provider may recommend a treatment that offers a short-term solution.
If your child is going through a major change or conflict, for instance moving to a new home, welcoming a brother or sister, being exposed to parental conflict, or experiencing some other trauma, your kid may start bedwetting as a stress response. In these circumstances, it’s important to try to resolve the situation or reduce the stress felt around the issue as a way to help your child overcome bedwetting.
Read our article on how to stop bedwetting for more detailed information on bedwetting solutions.

Things You Can Do at Home to Help Manage Bedwetting

There are several ways you can show your support in your child’s brave battle with nocturnal incontinence:
  • Make sure your kid goes to the toilet frequently, between four and seven times per day, including right before bedtime
  • Use a bladder diary to track your child’s bathroom visits and make a chart that shows wet and dry nights. Download our bladder diary template here.
  • Use waterproof bed covers so that cleaning up is easier and to reduce the stress around any bedwetting accidents
  • Use positive reinforcement to help your child develop control over their bladder at night by rewarding them for keeping their bed dry—keep in mind, the rewards you use don’t have to be big or expensive. Encouraging words, a sticker (if your child is younger), or a huge hug can all work well as positive reinforcement.
  • Work with your child to help them imagine waking up dry is also said to help them work toward this goal
  • Enlist the help of the elite warrior team of Ninjamas, who provide your kid with the super-secret nighttime support they need to wake up happy, dry, and well-rested. Ninjamas come in boys’ and girls’ sizes S/M and L/XL, with OdorMask™ and All-Night Leak Protection to help keep them dry until the morning. Our super stealthy nighttime underwear fits discreetly and provides breathable comfort, just like cotton underwear. The designs are also just like underwear so your child will feel confident in wearing them under their PJs.

The Bottom Line on Bedwetting

The main takeaway here is that no matter how old your child is, they are not to blame for urinating in the bed. There are likely physical or psychological reasons at play, or it could just be a case of your child’s development taking a little extra time in this department.
The good news? Sooner or later, your child will grow out of the bedwetting phase. In the meantime, treatment recommended by your child’s healthcare provider, positive reinforcement, and tools like a mattress cover and bedwetting underwear like Ninjamas go a long way in helping keep their bedsheets dry and their dreams undisturbed.

How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Mayo Clinic. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.