How to stop bedwetting
Bedwetting affects over 5 million children in the United States over the age of 5 or 6. Before the age of 5 or 6, it's total normal for kids not to be dry totally at night. But once you reach 5 or 6, we call it bedwetting or enuresis. And unless you do something to intervene, there's a good chance it will still be there next year. In fact if you're over age 6 and you're bedwetting today, there's an 85% chance you'll still be bedwetting next year on this day unless you do something. I'm Dr. Alan Greene and I what to share with you something you can do.
But first, you have to understand a little bit about what causes bedwetting. Children who wet the bed have 2 things in common. One is that they make more urine at night than their bladder will automatically hold. And 2, these children don't wake up when there's a signal from the bladder saying that it's full. There's lot of kids who don't wake up, who don't wet the bed because their bladders don't get so full. Lots of kids whose bladders get pretty full but don't wet the bed because they wake up fine. Bedwetters are the ones who do both.
So one of the most powerful ways to break-in and to change that cycle is to teach kids to wake up at that moment when the bladder gets full. And bedwetting alarms are a great way to do it. Here is 1 model of one. It comes in 2 pieces. There is an alarm unit. Has a cool little magnet on the back that snaps in. Kids like to play with the magnet. And you put it in the pajamas up kind of near their head. The other end is an alligator clip that clips to the bottom part of the pajamas. And it's got a moisture sensor in it. This paper towel has a little bit of water on it like simulated pajamas. (Alarm ringing) And the alarm starts going off at the first sign of moisture. I'll turn that off so you don't have to put up with that while we finish talking about this. Hopefully. There we go.
So what happens then is that the first sign of moisture, the alarm goes off. You can get varying volumes of alarms. Some as loud as a smoke alarm. But often the child will not wake up. Somebody else needs to wake them up. They will instantly clench up and stop peeing at the first few drops, which helps the laundry issue right away. But they need somebody else to come in, walk them to the bathroom. And they won't recognize you. They'll be in the middle of sleep, but they'll recognize the toilet and finish going.
After a couple of weeks, kids will start to wake up with the alarm. After a few more weeks, they'll start to wake up just before the alarm. That signal that the bladder is getting full gets through to them. And a few more weeks, many of them won't wake up at all. The signal will make it up to the brain. It will send a signal back down to the bladder to hold it in for the rest of the night and be completely dry. It often takes 12 weeks, though.
The 2 biggest complaints that I hear from people when they've starting using the alarm is they'll say "My child doesn't wake up." And that's normal. Bedwetters are very deep sleepers. In fact it often works better for those who don't wake up themselves to the alarm. The second big complaint I hear is "I've done it for 2 weeks and they're still bedwetting." It takes longer than 2 weeks. It often takes 6 weeks and sometimes even as long as 12 weeks. But it's a very effective way to do it.
- Last reviewed on 9/18/2011
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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