Bed-wetting at night during sleep is technically known as nocturnal enuresis. Bed-wetting is a nuisance to parents, and hence toilet training begins at an early age. After the age of four, when they start going to school, most children are dry at night. However there are some that continue to wet their beds at night even to a much older age.
In the past, a lot of people believed that children wet their beds while dreaming. Now, with the advent of the sleep laboratory, we are certain that they wet their beds during NREM sleep, especially in stages three and four of deep sleep. Children who sleep deeply lose control of their bladders in NREM deep sleep. As the children grow older, it is normal for them to sleep less deeply and this increases their bladder control. Ultimately, as these bed-welters become older,
bed-wetting cures itself. Most parents seek medical advice if their children still bed-wet at about school age. The doctor will make sure there is no urine infection or sugar diabetes. Diabetes mellitus, having sugar in the urine, is known to cause excessive urination, although few sufferers of diabetes bed-wet. If the doctor is satisfied that there is no physical illness, normally no treatment is required before the age of eight, as bed-wetting is a self-limiting condition. We are quite sure that the majority of bed-wetters are of normal intelligence and parents need not be worried or concerned about their child’s future development. These children should be rewarded when they have a dry night, and when they have a wet night it should be ignored. Do not punish them, as this will only give them a feeling of guilt which may be harmful to their future personality and may make their bed-wetting worse.
If treatment is required, two methods are commonly used. ” This can be given to children when they need to be dry for a night or more as when they stay overnight at a friend’s home or go away to a school camp. It is only a temporary measure, as relapse is common once the medicine is stopped.
A second well-known method is the pad and alarm system. This is an electrical device consisting of two electrical pads separated by a small piece of cloth, and it is placed under the bed sheet. When the child wets the cloth between the pads, a short circuit is created which switches on a battery-run alarm which then wakes the child up. This trains the child to wake up once bed-wetting begins. This training may take anything up to 12 weeks before bed-wetting stops.
Bed-wetting sometimes runs in families and seems to be an inherited characteristic. It has been shown that an identical twin has double the chance of bed-wetting if the other twin bed-wets. Bed-wetting can also be caused by emotional factors; for example the addition of a new baby to the family may be perceived as a threat to the older child. In these cases of stress induced bed-wetting, most of the children have been dry for a period of months or years after toilet training, but bed-wetting begins again when they experience emotional stress. This is called secondary bed-wetting and is commonly stress related. This is less common than primary bed-wetting, in which the child has not gained bladder control at night since birth.