Nocturnal Enuresis in Children: What You Should Know

Some children who are five to six years old continue to wet the bed. This worries parents. In this article, discover why nocturnal enuresis can happen and what you can do to improve it, if it isn’t physiological.
Nocturnal Enuresis in Children: What You Should Know
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Nocturnal enuresis in children is a disorder that occurs frequently in children between the ages of five and six. But there are also cases of older children, from the ages of 12 to 14, who continue to wet the bed. The latter are the ones who suffer the most due to its social implications.

Enuresis usually improves as the child grows. At approximately 18 months, 50% of children control their urination during the day and 10% also do so at night. But until they’re two or three years old, this potty training doesn’t stabilize. Thus, this is when they begin to regulate their pee at night.

Not all children are able to control urine at this time. Some take longer and others can even reach adolescence without controlling it for various reasons. For example, physiological reasons, psychological disturbances, lack of receptors, or low production of the hormone vasopressin that regulates urination at night.

Do you want to know more about nocturnal enuresis in children? If so, keep reading!

What’s nocturnal enuresis in children?

Nocturnal enuresis is the inability to control urine at night and occurs at an age at which voluntary control of urination is expected.

  • Primary enuresis. This occurs when the child has never controlled their urine during sleep. This type of enuresis is usually due to physiological causes.
  • Secondary enuresis. This occurs when the child has managed to not wet the bed for six months to a year but starts doing it again. This may be due to psychological problems.
Nocturnal Enuresis in Children: What You Should Know

Consequences of nocturnal enuresis in children

Decreased self-esteem and self-confidence

The child’s first reactions are of shame and fear. This is because they get older and they realize that other children don’t wet the bed and they do. This causes insecurity and low self-esteem.

Affects sleep quality

Children who suffer from nocturnal enuresis tend to have poor quality sleep, as their light sleep phase is longer than their deep sleep phase. If they feel wet, they may wake up several times during the night and their sleep is less comforting.

Increased behavioral problems

Children who wet the bed are more prone to stress, and this can lead them to develop behavior problems, as well as increased difficulty concentrating.

Socialization problems

When children suffer from nocturnal enuresis, they have trouble socializing, they isolate themselves, and they don’t want to sleep over at their friends’ houses out of fear of wetting the bed and being laughed at, making a fool of themselves. This problem tends to get bigger as they grow and get older, when there’s more socialization.

Some exercises to fight nocturnal enuresis in children

Exercise to control the muscles involved in urination

When the child goes to the bathroom, ask them to cut off the urine stream. When the child is peeing, tell them to stop and hold their urine for a few seconds. It’s important that you don’t ask them to hold their urine more than twice, as this could lead to a urinary infection. It’s best to do this when you’re almost finished, as you’ll have less pressure on your bladder.

Nocturnal Enuresis in Children: What You Should Know

Waking up to pee at night

You can set an alarm and wake your child three or four times during the night so they can go to the bathroom. This exercise is very effective to help children get used to getting up when they have to pee. This way, they’ll become aware of their reflexes and they’ll know when they need to pee. Thus, little by little, they’ll be able to do it automatically.

Exercise to hold their urine

This exercise serves to stimulate bladder capacity and improve urine control. Ask the child to hold their pee in until they no longer can’t. Initially, holding on for a few seconds is enough. Later, you can increase the endurance time a little more. This way, you stimulate the pelvic muscles. You must always do this carefully and without going to extremes; always being in control.

Now you know a little more about nocturnal enuresis in children. It’s important that you consult your pediatrician if your child can’t hold their pee. And, if they managed to control it but started wetting the bed again, try these exercises to see if they improve. If not, it’s advisable to consult a specialist.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.