A wee little problem: Bedwetting preventative tips in older children to help families enjoy night’s sleep

by Tia

It’s happened again. It’s 1 am and your seven-year-old is awake and in tears, yelling for you to come to their room as they sit in a urine-soaked bed. While soothing your distraught child and changing their bedding, you mentally lament your lack of sleep (the third time this week!), and the fact that it seems your child is the only seven-year-old in the world still bedwetting.

While your child’s nightly woes might be adding to the mental load of being a parent, the reality is that this scenario is far more common than you think. According to research, one in six South African children between the ages of five and 10 years old are bedwetters.

Medically referred to as nocturnal enuresis, bedwetting is the involuntary loss of urine during sleep that occurs at least twice a week in children older than 5 years of age for at least 3 months. If this describes your child’s circumstances, you have a bed-wetter in the family.

Wendy Medical Doctor and DryNites Ambassador Michael Mol shares that bedwetting can be attributed to various factors, including the low production of the hormone vasopressin during sleep (with subsequent overproduction of urine at night), small bladder capacity, and poor sleep arousal. Dr. Mol distinguishes between two types of bedwetting: primary and secondary enuresis. Primary enuresis refers to bedwetting in a child who has never been dry for at least six months. Secondary enuresis on the other hand occurs after a child has been dry for a minimum of six months and then begins wetting the bed again.

Regardless of what type of enuresis your child is experiencing, if they are having daytime incidents too, Dr Mol says “that it is important to visit your doctor to ascertain whether your child’s bedwetting problem is linked to a medical condition. “In certain cases, doctors may prescribe medication that reduces the amount of urine produced at night and, and consequently, the need to go to the toilet.”

Ahead of World Bedwetting Day on 31 May, Dr Mol shares tips for parents of children who are going through bedwetting:

Limit drinks before bed. The initial approach is to try behavioural modifications which include limiting fluid intake at least two hours before bedtime to prevent accidents. Parents should also avoid giving their children dairy, sugary or caffeinated drinks before bed, such as hot chocolate, energy drinks or cola, which can disrupt sleep.

Be prepared. Absorbent pyjama pants, such as DryNites® Pyjama Pants, help to alleviate some of the shame and anxiety associated with wetting the bed and allow for uninterrupted sleep for both child and parent. 

DryNites are available in two sizes (4-7 years and 8-15 years) and resemble normal underwear but include five absorbent layers that prevent leakage and sleep disruption. According to a study published in the European Journal of Paediatrics, patients who continued wearing absorbent pants had significantly better quality of life scores and woke up less often during the night than those who stopped wearing absorbent pants. These effects became more pronounced over time. For more information on how to manage bedwetting, visit the DryNites website: https://www.drynites.co.za/

Bed-wetting alarms involve placing a moisture sensor in the child’s pyjamas before bed. This method has proven effective in two-thirds of cases but using it requires a lot of motivation and can be disruptive to the sleep cycle of parents and other household members.

Consider medication. This method has a very similar outcome to bedwetting alarms, with medication working immediately, but often relapsing when it’s discontinued. This involves the use of Desmopressin (DDAVP), a synthetic form of the vasopressin hormone administered as medication. This method has also proven successful in a large number of cases and directly addresses one of the main physiological causes of bedwetting.

Concludes Dr Mol, “Ongoing bedwetting can cause both parent and child a great deal of worry, shame, and stress, while also affecting sleep and thus quality of life. Know that you and your child are not alone and that there are tools and strategies that you can adopt which are proven to be very effective in reducing the likelihood and frequency of bedwetting while alleviating the toll it can take on the whole family.”

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