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What Are the Causes of Bedwetting?


Two parents with their kids
It’s 3 a.m. and you’re frantically googling again. You’re searching things like “why does my kid wet the bed” or “what am I doing wrong” or ”how do I get these pee stains out”. You’re looking for the magic wand to fix everything. First step: Back away from the phone or keyboard. Next step: Understand that bedwetting is 100% normal and the exact cause of bedwetting hasn’t been pinpointed by medical experts. There are reasons for bedwetting and there are ways to conquer it, but to understand why and how your child is going through this phase means understanding the many physical and psychological reasons that cause bedwetting. So take a breath, close that search browser and prepare to become a sensei of bedwetting knowledge.

Why Do Kids Wet the Bed?
What Are the Possible Physical Causes of Enuresis?
What May Be the Psychological Cause of Bedwetting?
Are There Any Medical Risks Associated With Bedwetting?
What Treatments Are There for Bedwetting?
The Bottom Line

Why Do Kids Wet the Bed?

Unfortunately, there is no single cause of bedwetting for ALL parents and kids. Instead, there are a number the contributing factors that can lead to nighttime accidents. From bladder and brain development to heredity, medical conditions and liquid intake – your kid might be facing different physical reasons for bedwetting. Bedwetting can be stressful and messy, from disrupted laundry and nighttime routines to the worry you might feel over your child’s well-being. The important thing to realize is that most kids will grow out of it just like your oldest grew out of fidget spinners. In the meantime, there are a few ways you can manage bedwetting and make this phase a little more comfortable to live through.

What Are the Possible Physical Causes of Enuresis?

As we said, there’s no single cause behind bedwetting, but there are several physical factors that can lead to it. Nocturnal enuresis — the medical term doctors use for bedwetting in children — has a few contributing factors:
  • Bladder issues. Your kid may have a small and underdeveloped bladder that runs out of room easily or has muscle spasms that cause the bladder to release pee before it’s full. This is nothing to worry about. All it means is your child’s bladder still has some growing to do.
  • Genetics. There is some evidence that suggests bedwetting can run in the family. If you or your partner had it as a kid, your kid or teenager takes after their parents too.
  • Deep Sleep. Some children can be so deep in dreamland, they don’t wake up in time to make it to the toilet.
  • Brain development. It can take time for the brain and the bladder to talk to each other properly, which means your kid may not have fully learned how to hold and empty their bladder.
  • Over-productive kidneys. Sometimes a child’s kidneys produce an above-average amount of urine. More pee means your kid will need the bathroom more often and they may not wake up in time.
  • Constipation. If your kid is constipated, the full bowels can put pressure on the bladder, which could lead to bedwetting.
  • Hormonal problems. There is a hormone called the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which tells the body to make less pee at night. If there is not enough of this hormone to go around, then some kids may make too much pee while sleeping and may not be able to wake up for the toilet in time.
  • Certain medical conditions Sometimes, there may be a medical condition behind the enuresis, like diabetes or a urinary tract infection (UTI). Also, some studies say that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to have brain chemistry issues that cause bedwetting.
  • Water and caffeine. There aren’t many foods that cause bedwetting, but drinks containing caffeine or too much water can increase urine production at night. Try to limit your kid from drinking caffeinated drinks or drinking too much fluid close to bedtime.

What May Be the Psychological Cause of Bedwetting?

Bedwetting isn’t always a physical or developmental problem. Your child’s mental state plays a large role, as their psychological condition can lead to emotional causes for bedwetting. Stress is usually the main reason behind a kind of bedwetting known as secondary enuresis, which is when a young child or teen regresses at some later point. These kinds of stressors are different for every child, but some of the most common causes of emotional stress for children are:
  • Moving homes
  • Moving schools
  • Parental conflict or divorce
  • Losing a parent or someone they love
  • Other big life changes.
When stress is the main emotional cause of bedwetting, a parent can help ease their child’s mind through healthy communication and some extra compassion. Help your child find balance by taking a few steps to cut down on stress:
  • Make sure your kid gets proper rest and good nutrition
  • Make time for your child every day, whether it’s just playing together or being in the same room together
  • Don’t force your kid to talk about their stress, even if you think you know what’s worrying them
  • Prepare for stressful situations you know are coming up, like changes in school or moving away. Help them focus on reasons to be excited in these moments to help them cope with the stress as much as possible.
There can be many psychological reasons for bedwetting — like stress, major life events, or disturbances in your child’s daily routine. Be aware of these factors and try the best you can to help soften their impact. As always, if you hit a wall or are having trouble figuring out a solution, make an appointment with your child’s physician.

Are There Any Medical Risks Associated With Bedwetting?

Bedwetting isn’t always driven by a physical and psychological cause. Sometimes, bedwetting can be driven by a medical cause that isn’t immediately apparent. Now don’t hop right back on your phone and start internet-diagnosing your child — leave that to a healthcare provider — but for your own knowledge, here are some of the medical issues that could potentially lead to bedwetting:
  • Sleep apnea. Have you noticed your child snores a lot or struggles to breathe at night? If that’s the case, then the bedwetting may be linked to sleep apnea — when breathing stops and starts in sleep. Some studies say that bedwetting linked to sleep apnea follows a chain reaction in the body, in which oxygen levels decrease and the heart excretes a hormone-like protein that tells the body to release water.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are an infection of the organs responsible for urination, making it hard for a child to control the need to pee.
  • Diabetes. The blood sugar imbalances caused by diabetes can lead to increased urination. A simple urine test can screen for most medical conditions, so be sure not to self-diagnose a condition as serious as this before consulting a professional.
So, when do you contact a doctor? An accident here or there shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but prolonged symptoms like the ones below are good indicators for when to seek medical advice:
  • Sudden changes in urination frequency during the day
  • Pain, burning sensations or strains while peeing
  • A constant narrow stream of urine that occurs after going to the toilet
  • Cloudy or pink urine, or blood stains in their pants
  • Drastic changes in personality
  • Poor bowel control
  • The need to pee after physical stress, like coughing, running or lifting
  • Trouble walking
  • Nighttime snoring
  • Continuous dampness in their underwear

What bedwetting solutions are out there?

Bedwetting is tough. But the good news is that there are many tools at your disposal to help you and your child. Most of the time bedwetting will go away by itself, but it’s a hard problem to ignore when you are dealing with late nights and dirty sheets. The best short-term solutions come in the form of nighttime underwear that provides powerful protection from odor and wetness, like Ninjamas. As your child’s body develops, Ninjamas can deliver the confidence you and your kid need to conquer bedwetting and wake up feeling awesome (or NINJAWESOME, as we like to say!). Beyond Ninjamas Nighttime Underwear, there are other tools you can use — like bedwetting alarms, changes to daily routines or reducing the amount of water or other beverages your kid drinks right before bedtime. If you’re looking for more information about these solutions, don’t worry – the Ninjamas squad has already done reconnaissance for you on how to stop bedwetting. We’ve got your back!

The Bottom Line

When your child is battling bedwetting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you’re doing something wrong. You’re not. This is a phase. An awkward, confusing and sometimes frustrating phase — but it will pass. Be patient, communicate with your child and help guide them through this. Be mindful of the many physical or psychological factors in your child’s life that could be the cause. Monitor your kid’s behavior and always be on the lookout for recurring symptoms to rule out any potential medical conditions. Remember, you have powerful allies in your corner like Ninjamas Nighttime Underwear that can help you win the battle against bedwetting once and for all.

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.