It was the long held view by the medical community that children who were five or six years old who wet their beds on a regular basis did so because they suffered from a sleeping disorder. More recent up-to-date studies have shown that this is not the case. However it is the case that many bed wetting children are deep sleepers who fail to awaken when their brain sends the message that their bladder needs to be emptied.
Many controlled studies in laboratory have shown that while deep sleeping can play a role in bed wetting it is not the primary cause of why it takes place in the first place. Studies done on children at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York have carefully recorded their EEG patterns (electroencephalography), which means that electrodes are attached to the head that monitor the electrical activity of the brain during sleep. In children who suffered from a variety of sleep disorders, abnormal patterns were noted in their EEG’s. However in those who suffered only from enuresis no abnormal patterns were noted. Being a deep sleeper and needing a little extra nudge to awaken does not constitute a sleep disorder just a small deviation from the norm.
Most doctors are not completely clear as to what causes enuresis however it is important to bear in mind that the ability to control one’s bladder functions is a gradual process that takes time for children to master. Not all children manage it effectively all at once. For some it is a smooth process and for others there are plenty of bumps along the road. As well daytime bladder control is usually achieved first as the person is alert and awake and therefore able to immediately answer the call of a full bladder.
The process of controlling urine involves many aspects of the body working in sync, including the bladder muscles, the nerves, the brain and the spinal cord. When the bladder is full and requires emptying it sends a message to the brain. However if the person is in such a deep sleep that they don’t respond to the brain’s message then the brain makes an attempt to contain the urine in the bladder until which time the person is awake and able to empty it. In the case of bed wetting however, all of the parts of the body are not yet cooperating enough to make this happen.
Some children simply have a smaller bladder than other children and it has not fully matured to make nighttime bladder control a reality. In other cases children may simply manufacture more urine than those in the general population. In yet other cases a physical problem such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection is to blame for the enuresis.
Bed wetting has also been found to have a genetic link. In fact according to a report by the National Kidney Foundation, a child who have parents who were both bed wetters has a seven in ten chance of becoming one as well. For one parent this drops to a four in ten chance.