ConfidenceClub is Australia's largest specialist direct-to-consumer supplier of continence management products.
Bedwetting in Older Children and Teenagers
- And How To Manage It
If your child continues to wet the bed into their school years,
you’re probably thinking yours is a rare case.
You may be surprised to learn that you are definitely not alone.
Bedwetting in Older Children and Teenagers
- And How To Manage It
As many as 3% of teenagers continue to wet their bed. To put that into perspective, if your child goes to a high school with 1000 children, then as many as 30 of them still wet the bed at night.
Most children stop wetting the bed at night when they’re still very young. By the age of 5 only 20% have night-time accidents, and within a couple of years half of them have stopped.
If you’re reading this article you are probably the parent of an older child that continues to wet the bed into their school years, and you’re probably thinking your older child is a rare case. You may be surprised to learn that you are definitely not alone; as many as 3% of teenagers continue to wet their bed. To put that into perspective, if your child goes to a high school with 1000 children, then as many as 30 of them still wet the bed at night.
Should I Be Concerned?
You should have your child evaluated by a doctor to better understand what may be causing this issue, especially if your child stopped wetting their bed for a long period and it has now returned as a regular occurrence. This return-to-bedwetting is called Secondary Enuresis and it may have an underlying root cause that needs treatment, such as stress, anxiety, infection or a neurological issue.
It is however more common for bedwetting to remain a constant concern (it doesn’t stop for long periods and then start again) without a clearly identifiable underlying treatable condition. Interestingly it is also one of the very few incontinence conditions that is more common in boys than in girls.
Regardless, if you are concerned with any aspect of your child’s health, you should not hesitate to seek the guidance from a health professional. If you’re not qualified to diagnose the issue yourself then you should seek the advice of someone who is. It may be nothing, however the benefit of even knowing that it’s nothing is that your concern has been removed.
What Causes Bedwetting?
There is a long list of potential root causes of bedwetting, many of which are not of particular concern and your child will simply grow out of it.
For instance, it is common for bedwetting in teenagers to be caused by:
- Sleeping Deeply: the wake triggers don’t operate strongly enough in your teenager to get them to visit the toilet in the middle of the night. As an adult this wake-up call is either stronger, or the sleep is not as deep, so the body has a better chance of responding to the signals
- Poor Sleep Patterns: if you've ever tried to wake your teenager for school then you know too well that the body clock of most teenagers doesn’t align well with school hours. This compounds their exhaustion and makes waking up in the middle of the night even more difficult
- A Smaller Bladder: your teenager may have a small bladder that has insufficient space and as they develop their bladder will increase in size
- Active Kidneys: an overflowing bladder may be caused by their kidneys producing too much urine at night. As an adult the body produces an antidiuretic hormone at night to slow the kidney’s output while you sleep. Your teenager may not be producing enough of this hormone yet
- Genetics: if a parent wet the bed into their later childhood years then it is more likely for their child to exhibit the same behaviour. That particularly makes sense when you consider that the above factors may all be heritable. If both parents wet their beds in later childhood then it is estimated that their children will have a 70% chance of repeating this behaviour
These are not specifically of concern, however there are a number of other potential root causes that are of more concern, and call for more active treatment, such as:
- Urinary Tract Infections: your child may have an infection that is causing irritation in their urinary tract
- Constipation: a full bowel may be putting additional pressure on the bladder and resolving the constipation sometimes resolves the bedwetting
- Emotional or Social Factors: stress is one of the most common reasons for secondary enuresis. If your child is going through a difficult time at school or in their social group, or there’s been a significant change in their lives then treating the underlying emotional change can stop the bedwetting
- Neurological or Other Medical Conditions: enuresis can sometimes be a symptom of a health condition that needs treatment. Some examples include spinal damage, bladder or kidney disease, diabetes and some data points even to ADHD
What Can I Do About It?
If the root cause requires medical intervention, then you’ll need to work with a medical professional to manage your child’s treatment. If you’re in the more fortunate majority and the bedwetting is something more simple like sleeping too deeply, then there are a few things you can do to minimise its frequency and severity:
- Bedwetting Alarms: these are alarms connected to a wetness sensor in the child’s underwear. Over a few weeks of the alarm going off and waking the child, their brain becomes more conditioned to associate the need to urinate with the need to wake up and the bedwetting often stops
- Limiting Fluids At Night: manage the levels of liquid intake prior to bedtime to reduce the fluid available for the kidneys to process into urine while they’re sleeping. Shift their fluid intake to earlier in the day rather than reducing their hydration
- Bathroom Habits: encourage healthy sleep habits by reminding your teenager to empty their bladder before falling asleep. This may require more structured and disciplined bedtime behaviours rather than letting them fall asleep while on their phones
- Communication: being supportive and maintaining open communication with your child might be quite helpful in identifying other strategies or techniques for mitigating bedwetting, and even if not, knowing they have you in their corner should really help to reduce their anxiety and stress
How Do I Manage The Impact?
While your child continues to be at risk of wetting their bed you should minimise the impact of accidents. There are a number of products that will help with this.
Click on each tab to learn more:
Slips / Nappies
- Pull-Ups For Children and Teenagers
- These are disposable absorbent pants designed for those ages between baby and adult that should be worn at night when bedwetting is a common occurrence, or in situations where bed protection is not readily available, for example at sleepovers
- Washable Reusable Bed Protectors
- Protecting the mattress is essential because it is essentially impossible to clean inside a mattress. We recommend a large protector, with a non-porous backing layer and optionally an absorbent upper layer to wick moisture away from your sleeping child. These are more expensive, however they can be washed hundreds of times and work out cheaper in the long run. Be sure to buy more than just one so that you can have one on the bed at all times while the other one may be in the wash or still drying.
- Disposable Underpads
- These are relatively small square or rectangular absorbent pads with a waterproof backing that you’ll simply throw away when there’s an accident. Be sure to position it at waist height for your teenager, and place it underneath their fitted sheet to prevent it from being a choking hazard or from moving during the night.
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Makes Life easier as not having to wash sheets constantly.
Day and night she is kept comfortably dry. These pants don’t leak even when she has longer than expected periods between changes.
My 16 year old daughter has never leaked overnight with these pants and believe me, this is a first! She doesn’t need to use backup when using these pants!