If you or your child wets the bed, you are not alone. About 150,000 Australian children between 5 and 14 years of age wet the bed at least once a week. Some adults also wet the bed, but we don’t have any figures on how many. Often, but not always, there is a family history of bedwetting. This pattern is similar in most western countries.
The development of dryness during the day and night is gradual. Generally, bowel control at night is the first to appear, then bowel control during the day. Bladder control during the day is next, followed by bladder control at night.
Most children consistently have dry beds by the age of six or seven. The chances of becoming dry at night after the age of seven are reduced. Four percent of fourteen year olds have significant bedwetting. Therefore it is sensible to seek assistance for your child at the age of six or seven, rather than waiting till he or she is older.
In a very small number of cases, bedwetting may be due to a physical problem. Sometimes urinary tract infection is associated with wetting the bed. Other physical problems can also lead to bedwetting. However, there is no physical problem involved in more than 90% of children who wet the bed. Research also shows that bedwetting is rarely caused by personality disorder or by severe emotional disturbance. It is true that some children may be anxious whilst they are wetting the bed. When they stop, this anxiety usually lessens. This tells us that the bedwetting may have been causing them to worry rather than worry causing them to wet the bed.
Some parents may think that their children wet the bed because they sleep deeply. Research into depth of sleep, however, shows that both light and deep sleepers wet the bed.
At the other end of the age range, aging itself is often accompanied by a reduction in bladder control. This is often due to physical problems as a result of disease, illness or loss of muscle tone.
Children with physical or developmental disabilities may be delayed in bladder control. This is particularly true if physical impairment interferes with bladder functioning. If there is no such impairment there is every reason to believe that these children can learn to be dry during the day and at night.
The treatment of bedwetting is one of the best researched treatments in the world. For the past five decades researchers in many countries, including Australia, have been finding out who wets the bed, what may cause bedwetting and what are the most effective methods to enable people to become dry at night. Some parents have found that encouragement, the use of rewards, or systematic wakening to go to the toilet before the time the child is most likely to wet have been effective. Research has shown that a method called enuresis training is effective in 90% of cases. A number of studies have shown that drugs are either totally ineffective or are significantly less effective than enuresis training. Bedwetting may stop while the drug is being taken, but usually returns once medication ceases.
Enuresis training involves a careful program run over a number of weeks, with frequent monitoring, and using a bell and pad, approved by the Standards Association of Australia, as an aid during the training.Matthews, J. (1994). Bedwetting:A Manual for Parents. Ramsey Coote Instruments, Sandringham, Vic. Hall, J. (1989). How You Can Be Boss of the Bladder. Globe Press, Brunswick
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