Bedwetting in Children – Causes

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The exact reasons for bedwetting are not very well understood, but here are some possibilities:

  • Bedwetting seems to run in families. The likelihood of a child wetting the bed is 40% if one parent suffered from bedwetting as a child, and 70% if both parents suffered. So there is often a genetic element.
  • One of the most common reasons for bedwetting is the bladder muscle contracting and emptying the bladder when it is only half full of urine. This is because the child has not developed the necessary nerve and muscle control, but this does not mean there is something wrong.
  • Some children produce a lot of urine at night, because the mechanisms that reduce kidney urine production at night are slow to develop. Again, there is usually nothing wrong.
  • There is very little scientific evidence to back up the idea that bedwetting is a psychological problem. Some children do wet the bed if they have anxieties at home or school, but more often bedwetting is a cause (rather than a result) of unhappiness. However, in children who were toilet trained, a stressful life event, like parents’ separation or divorce, can trigger bedwetting, especially in a toilet-trained child
  • Parents often think that their child has a different, deeper sleep pattern than other children. There is no scientific evidence for this. The problem is more a difficulty with waking, as the sensation of a full bladder is not enough to wake the child.
  • Occasionally, a medical condition such as a urine infection is responsible

Important Points about Bedwetting

  • Your child cannot help wetting the bed.
  • Your child is not wetting the bed out of spite, or to attract attention, or by being too lazy to get out of bed.
  • Try not to get irritated, and do not criticize your child for bedwetting. Punishing a child for bedwetting is wrong, it certainly will not help, and may make it worse.
  • You and your child may feel depressed about the bedwetting and may feel it will never stop. Keep reminding yourself that most children grow out of it. Think of it as a temporary problem.


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Reviewed and edited by: Diane Newman
Last updated: May 2021

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