Bedwetting in Teenagers and Adults – Causes

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Adults who wet the bed at night often have problems in the daytime as well, such as having to rush to the lavatory (urgency). It may be caused by a mixture of reasons. If you have always suffered from bed-wetting, you may:

  • lack the necessary muscle and nerve control
  • produce a lot of urine at night
  • suffer from chronic constipation
  • (rarely) have an underlying congenital malformation of the urinary tract

If you have only recently started to wet the bed, it could be caused by:

  • a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • alcohol, coffee
  • diuretic medicines
  • diabetes
  • stress or  anxiety
  • constipation
  • an enlarged prostate

Lack of necessary muscle and nerve control. Your bladder may not have developed the necessary nerve and muscle control, so the bladder muscle contracts and empties the bladder when it is only half full of urine. If you are a teenager, your bladder may soon learn.

Producing a lot of urine at night. You may be producing a lot of urine, because the mechanisms that reduce urine production at night have not developed. Again, if you are a teenager, the problem may resolve itself in time.

Urine infection. A urine infection can irritate the bladder, and make it more difficult to hold urine.

Alcohol, coffee or diuretic medicines. Diuretics are medications that are used to treat high blood pressure and some heart problems. They encourage the kidney to make more urine. It is best not to take a diuretic at bedtime, because you will need to pass urine in the night and, if your bladder control is poor, this could cause bed-wetting. Alcohol and coffee have a similar effect, so avoid them within 3 hours of bedtime.

Diabetes is a disease in which the blood sugar is too high. The kidneys try to lower the sugar by making lots of sugary urine, so you pass more urine in the day and during the night (you are also thirsty). If your bladder control is poor, this could cause bed-wetting. The problem goes away when the diabetes is treated.

Stress and anxiety can cause bed-wetting.

Constipation can increase pressure on the bladder and also affect the way the nerves controlling the bladder valves work.

An enlarged prostate which occurs naturally as men get older.


First published on:
Reviewed and edited by: Dr Kevin Barrett
Last updated: May 2021

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