While children who wet the bed may feel that they suffer alone, in fact, about 25 percent of children experience nighttime wetting. The condition tends to run in families and is often associated with having a small bladder, being a heavy sleeper and retaining fluid. New research at Wake Forest Baptist shows that hidden constipation can also be a factor.

“Your child has no control over this, so it’s important to preserve their self-esteem,” says Anthony Atala, M.D., chair of the Department of Urology and a specialist in pediatric urology.

Parents can take several steps to lessen the problem. In addition to the common recommendation to make sure children empty their bladders before bedtime, Atala recommends that children limit their intake of salty foods.

If the problem is persistent, a consultation with a physician is recommended to ensure that there isn’t a physical problem. For example, even children with normal bowel habits can have a backup of stool in their rectums that can press on their bladders, leading to bedwetting. Read more about this research and watch a video of Dr. Steve Hodges explaining the findings.

Treatments can include:

If the problem is constipation, laxative therapy has been shown to resolve most cases of bedwetting.

Medications can reduce the amount of urine produced at night, but because they have side effects, many families opt to use them on a temporary basis, such as for sleepovers or summer camp. 

An alarm that is activated when the child wets the bed can be effective when used properly. The family must consistently follow these steps: the child must turn off the alarm, go to the bathroom to empty his/her bladder, return to bed, and reset the alarm. If the child sleeps through the alarm, family members should wake the child to turn the alarm off.

Pediatric urologist Anthony Atala, MD

Bed-wetters don’t have to avoid sleepovers. Read these tips from pediatric urologist Anthony Atala, MD, to learn more: