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The Lowdown on: Bedwetting

Bedwetting can be a stressful time for parents and children. We get the lowdown from Tanya Muir, a Sleep Coach & Occupational Therapist for Koala & Joe, a new platform helping parents find and book trusted experts for their children.

Is bedwetting common - and exactly how common is it?

Bedwetting in children is very common, especially during the toddler years when attempting to transition out of nappies. Medically termed “nocturnal enuresis”, bedwetting is only considered a problem when a child is 5 years or older, and it is happening at least once a month for 3 consecutive months. So what causes bedwetting and if your child is affected, what should you do?

What’s the reason children wet the bed?

Bedwetting is common in all populations around the world with rates of around 4-19%. The main reason bedwetting occurs is due to an imbalance between urine volume and bladder storage space. In children who don’t struggle, they are able to wake to the sensation of needing to pass urine and can return to sleep thereafter. Children with nocturnal enuresis may be very “deep sleepers” who are not easily woken to attend to the needs of their body; they may have low levels of a hormone responsible for helping the body stay hydrated by storing bodily water overnight so that less urine is produced; or lastly they may just have a smaller bladder capacity.

What are your 5 top tips for children who bedwet?

1. The first thing to try is to limit their fluid intake close to bedtime. Offer your child their last drink 1 hour or more before their usual bedtime. It’s important that your child is properly hydrated so make sure they still have their 6-8 water-based drinks per day. These drinks should also NOT include caffeine (tea, coffee, cola, hot chocolate, energy drinks) as caffeine is a diuretic which encourages urination.

2. Encourage your child to try and urinate before going to bed. EVEN if they had already had a wee half an hour ago and feel like they can’t go. Turn a tap on to see if that helps.

3. Do not punish or shame your child for wetting the bed. This will increase anxiety and further impact sleep quality.

4. Some parents find it helpful to put a waterproof sheet below their child’s bedsheet and then double up – so another waterproof sheet and another bedsheet below. This helps changing sheets in the middle of the night become a swifter job.

5. It also helps to ensure that proper sleep hygiene is followed. Importantly, have a specific routine tailored to your child that helps them wind down before bed, switch off from the world, connect with their caregivers and prepare for restoration. Keep the room dark and keep wake times and bedtimes the same 7 days per week to help your child’s body clock remain in-sync.

Is bedwetting ever a sign of a more serious condition?

It is not considered a serious problem in cases of primary bedwetting and most children grow out of it. Parents should be more concerned if they notice that the bedwetting is accompanied by pain in the bladder or genital area during urination, increased thirst, a pink or red coloured urine, snoring or signs of constipation. At this stage I would advise seeing your GP.

I have noticed that in some cases of bedwetting, children can experience intense nightmares. When they wake from their nightmare, they almost always need to use the toilet. It is as if the brain is trying everything to wake the child up to use the toilet or it experiences distress that produces nightmares. These children may complain of nightmares, without linking it to their toileting needs, and once hydration and caffeine intake is sorted, along with better sleep hygiene and routines, their nightmares usually stop.

You can book an online consultation with Tanya to discuss any sleep or bed-wetting related issues via the Koala and Joe platform here.

Or enter our competition to win £100 towards any of the experts on the Koala & Joe platform by clicking the button below:

Other useful resources include The Children’s Bladder and Bowel Charity ( or


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