Children's Hospital Colorado

Nighttime Wetting

What is nighttime wetting?

Nighttime wetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, is when a potty-trained child with daytime bladder control has urinary accidents during the night, in the bed. It is not considered abnormal until the age of 5 and is not cause for serious alarm.

What causes nighttime wetting?

Nocturnal enuresis is a developmental delay in the normal process of having nighttime bladder control. However, there is no known single cause for the condition. This condition will usually resolve on its own without intervention, however, it can be a very difficult issue for children as they get older and spend more time away from home at night at sleepovers or overnight camps. It can cause anxiety, embarrassment and withdrawal for the child in social situations.

Who gets nighttime wetting?

There is some evidence of a genetic link, meaning that if a child’s mother or father wet the bed past age 7, it is more likely that they will wet the bed.

Helpful resources:

Learn about the Department of Pediatric Urology at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

What are the signs and symptoms of nighttime wetting?

Signs include nighttime wetting one to seven times a week.

What tests are used to diagnose nighttime wetting?

Nighttime wetting is diagnosed by clinical presentation and history. There are no tests or radiology involved in the diagnosis. It is important to seek medical attention if the nighttime wetting begins interfering with the child’s social interactions or emotional state.

How do doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?

A complete medical history is obtained at a visit to the urology clinic through discussion with the parent and child. We identify motivating factors for becoming dry, as well as individual development, which can play a role in success in treatment.

How is nighttime wetting treated?

There is no single treatment that has been proven to treat nighttime wetting. Treatment often requires multiple interventions and it is not guaranteed that it will work for every child.

Treatment of nighttime wetting includes behavioral modification, as well as conditioning therapy. Behavioral modification includes encouraging good daytime urinary habits, decreasing the risk of constipation, restricting fluids 1 hour before bedtime and eliminating fluids and foods that are irritating to the bladder or are diuretics (i.e. carbonation, high sugar content fluids and caffeine). Conditioning therapy includes setting a bedwetting alarm, which helps teach the brain and bladder to communicate more effectively. In a few selective patients, medications may reduce the amount of urine made at night and can be helpful.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s nighttime wetting condition?

Our Bedwetting and Enuresis (BE) Program was created to specifically address children with wetting issues, including nighttime wetting. We educate on the cause of the condition, as well as behavioral modifications, and motivating techniques to help gain success.

The urology department works closely with a clinical psychologist to help address any long-term social issues which can result from bedwetting. Our urology group is committed to helping you and your child attain success with the interventions and become dry at night.


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