What Causes Bed Wetting?

Medical professionals have not been able to isolate any one specific reason for bed wetting and instead attribute it to more than one factor. It is considered widespread among children who are six years of age and younger. It is estimated that on average fifteen percent of six year olds wet their bed on a regular basis while approximately five percent of ten year olds do. The ability to control one’s bladder during the daytime usually develops first and the ability to do so during the night comes later. Most doctors do not believe that children who suffer from this problem have any serious medical and/or deep-seated psychological problems in relation to children who are not bed wetters.

Bed wetting can be broken down into two categories- primary nocturnal enuresis and secondary nocturnal enuresis. Primary nocturnal enuresis (which is often abbreviated to PNE) means that a child has mastered bladder control during their waking hours but for a period of at least six months has experienced consistent episodes of bed wetting and it has developed into a chronic problem. On the other hand, secondary nocturnal enuresis (SNE) means that the person has developed control over their bladder functions during their nighttime sleeping hours for a period of at least six months but then starts experiencing problems with bed wetting again.

There are believed to be a number of causes for primary nocturnal enuresis. There appears to be a genetic link when it comes to bed wetting. If a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle had the same problem as a child then you are more likely to develop the problem. Many children have very deep sleeping patterns and don’t awaken when their bladder relays the message to the brain that it needs to be emptied. Some children have a central nervous system that develops slower than normal and therefore interferes with bladder functions. Some children simply have a smaller than average bladder that requires that it be emptied more often than most people’s. A bladder infection that has gone undiagnosed and untreated can also be the cause of primary nocturnal bed wetting, as can abnormalities that exist in the ureter in males and females and for boys it can sometimes be problems with their urethral valves. Children who suffer from chronic allergies, attention deficit disorder (ADD) or a variety of learning disabilities appear to have a higher incidence of bed wetting problems than do other children.

Secondary nocturnal enuresis is most often related to a build up of stress that is occurring in a child’s life at any given time. Most often once the source of stress has passed in the child’s life, the bed wetting then becomes a thing of the past. The three most common stress triggers for secondary bed wetting in children include starting school for the first time, being hospitalized or seeing a parent who must stay in the hospital for a few days and the birth of a new brother or sister. Although these events can be exciting many children are also frightened and therefore develop secondary problems as a result, thus the name, secondary nocturnal bed wetting. Problems that exist in a family can also trigger bed wetting. These problems might include abuse, neglect, constant fighting between parents, divorce, alcoholism and financial worries.