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Children are not born with the ability to control the passing of urine it is a skill they learn as they mature.

Bed wetting is almost as common as asthma with nearly 10% of all 4-15 year olds wetting the bed at some stage.

What is bed wetting?

Doctors refer to bed wetting as nocturnal enuresis, defined as ‘the involuntary discharge of urine after the age at which bladder control should have been established'.

There are two types of nocturnal enuresis:

The most common type is primary enuresis. This is the medical term used to explain when a child has never experienced being dry at night. This can be linked to physical maturity as your child has not yet learned to recognise the feeling of a full bladder while asleep.

Secondary enuresis is the medical term used when your child begins to wet the bed after a lengthy period of being dry and can be triggered by emotional reasons like starting school or family problems. However, sometimes there is no explanation at all.

Why does it happen?

Understanding the reasons behind bed wetting can help you and your child deal with the issue. Here are some of the common reasons why bed wetting occurs.

Deep Sleep - sometimes children sleep so heavily that the urge to urinate will not wake them.
Hereditary Factors - bed wetting often runs in the family. If one parent wet the bed, there is a 40% chance that their child will too. If both parents wet the bed, the odds can rise to around 70%.
Hormones - each night our bodies secrete a hormone called vasopressin which stimulates the re-absorption of water through the kidneys during sleep, producing small amounts of concentrated urine each morning. Some children who wet the bed do not yet produce enough of the hormone and continue to produce large amounts of urine during the night.
Bladder Development - bed wetting can be dependent on your child's development. The process of recognising when your bladder is full is a skill that has to be learned, in much the same way walking and talking have to be learned. Children develop these skills at different times and at different speeds.

What can you do?

Your child will almost certainly grow out of bed wetting. Although there is no one cure there are a number of options available that will help you and your child cope in the mean time. We have outlined a number of those options below.

For further advice on bed wetting consult your local community pharmacy.


The information provided on this website does not replace medical advice.

If you want to find out more, or are worried about any medical issue or symptoms that you may be experiencing, please contact your local community pharmacist or see your doctor