Sleepwetting is a common problem

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

It is more common in children than you think. Also, if your child is four years or younger, relax, children up to four are not expected to be dry in the night. If a child is older and still wetting the bed, "he" (more boys bedwet than girls) is not alone, so take heart! Ten to twenty- five percent of children between the ages of six to eleven bedwet. Children as they grow older grow over bedwetting. One out of seven children who bedwet will be dry in the following year. By age 18, only one percent will bedwet. You do not have to do anything special. Just spare the child any shameful or embarrassing experiences over bedwetting. Your child may be the lucky one out of seven who may grow out of it by next year. However, other psychological problems, such as guilt, shame, anxiety may arise from continued bedwetting. You may not like to leave it for Mother Nature to take its course.

Incidentally, the term, "Bedwetting" is wrong. Child does not wet the bed on purpose. A child wets himself during the sleep and when he does it, he happens to be on the bed (where else would he be during the sleep)? The more accurate term would be "Sleepwetting" rather than "Bedwetting." I strongly recommend that we adopt it as a household term. Families that refer to it as sleepwetting, seem to get less upset about the wet bed and gain better understanding and appreciation of a child's problem. Sleepwetting is not a willful behavior and it is not a result of something parents are doing or have failed to do. Sleepwetting may have a genetic basis. Seventy-two percent of children who sleepwet had one or two parents who used to wet in their childhood. Children whose parents bedwetted when they were younger are more than five times as likely to bedwet as children whose parents did not. Even children raised apart from their parents are more likely to bedwet, if their parents did so when they were younger. Therefore, neither parents nor children need to blame themselves.

So what can parents and children do about it? Contrary to popular belief, drinking plenty of water helps stop sleepwetting. Drinking freely during the day actually increases children's ability to hold urine while they are sleeping. Water is a better drink because many other liquids have been implicated in sleepwetting. Caffeine drinks, including chocolate milk, have been associated with sleepwetting. Advise your child to take the last drink an hour before bed- time. Get a complete medical examination. Breathing difficulty, constipation and many other physical problems may contribute to sleepwetting. Such medical problems must be treated first. Encourage your child to take pride in holding the urine in bladder and emptying it whenever he is ready for it. Praise and reward a child for holding urine for any noticeable increase of time and also for emptying the bladder at will. Handle the incidents of sleepwetting with understanding, such as, "I know you are trying. It takes time to develop muscle power." If the child is old enough, he can assume responsibility for washing and/or drying the wet bed sheet. Do not shame or embarrass your child. Do not complain or talk about your child's sleepwetting to others. It is a personal and private matter between you and your child. Punishment or scolding only impairs a child's ability to gain bladder control and overcome the problem. If sleepwetting continues, seek help of a mental health professional who has experience in working with children's sleepwetting problems.

*This is an educational article for general information and not a professional advice. Consult a professional for your specific case.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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