Children are not born with the ability to control the passing of urine it is a skill they learn as they mature.

Bedwetting is almost as common as asthma with nearly 10% of all 4-15 year olds wetting the bed at some stage.

What is bedwetting?

Doctors refer to bedwetting as nocturnal enuresis, defined as ‘the involuntary discharge of urine after the age at which bladder control should have been established’.

There are two types of nocturnal enuresis:

The most common type is primary enuresis. This is the medical term used to explain when a child has never experienced being dry at night. This can be linked to physical maturity as your child has not yet learned to recognise the feeling of a full bladder while asleep.

Secondary enuresis is the medical term used when your child begins to wet the bed after a lengthy period of being dry and can be triggered by emotional reasons like starting school or family problems. However, sometimes there is no explanation at all.

Why does it happen?

Understanding the reasons behind bedwetting can help you and your child deal with the issue. Here are some of the common reasons why bedwetting occurs.

Deep Sleep – sometimes children sleep so heavily that the urge to urinate will not wake them.
Hereditary Factors – bedwetting often runs in the family. If one parent wet the bed, there is a 40% chance that their child will too. If both parents wet the bed, the odds can rise to around 70%.
Hormones – each night our bodies secrete a hormone called vasopressin which stimulates the re-absorption of water through the kidneys during sleep, producing small amounts of concentrated urine each morning. Some children who wet the bed do not yet produce enough of the hormone and continue to produce large amounts of urine during the night.
Bladder Development – bedwetting can be dependent on your child’s development. The process of recognising when your bladder is full is a skill that has to be learned, in much the same way walking and talking have to be learned. Children develop these skills at different times and at different speeds.

What can you do?

Your child will almost certainly grow out of bed wetting. Although there is no one cure there are a number of options available that will help you and your child cope in the mean time. We have outlined a number of those options below.

  • Absorbent pyjama pants enable your child to stay dry, comfortable and confident throughout the
    night. They can be worn discreetly beneath pyjamas and nightwear.
  • A calendar system that keeps a note of your child’s progress on dry nights can be a great
    motivational tool.
  • A reward scheme works well once your child begins to experience successful dry nights.
  • Many parents lift their child and place them on the loo just before they themselves go to bed. If you do wish to lift your child you should wake them properly so as not to reinforce the action of
    urinating during sleep.
  • Exercises such as resisting the urge to urinate for as long as possible during the day can
    help to stretch the bladder.
  • Your doctor can prescribe medicines that reduce the chances of your child wetting the bed.


The information provided on this website does not replace medical advice.

If you want to find out more, or are worried about any medical issue or symptoms that you may be experiencing, please contact our pharmacist or see your doctor.

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