Video courtesy of ERIC's Vimeo Channel

Bedwetting is common and often runs in families. It can be upsetting, but most children and young people will grow out of it.

On this page we'll go through why your child might be wetting the bed, what you can do about it and where you can get help if home treatments don't work.

Possible causes of bedwetting

Having drinks before bed

Drinking lots of fluid in the evening could cause your child to wet the bed during the night, particularly if they have a small bladder.

Drinks containing caffine, such as cola, tea and coffee, can also increase the urge to wee.

Not waking during the night

Once the amount of urine in the bladder reaches a certain point, most people wake up as they feel the need to go to the toilet.

But some younger children are particularly deep sleepers and their brain doesn't respond to signals sent from their bladder, so they don't wake up.

In some children, the nerves attached to the bladder may not be fully develped yet, so they don't send a strong enough signal to the brain.

Sometimes a child may wake up during the night with a full bladder but not go to the toilet.  This may be because of the childhood fears, such as being scared of the dark.

Underlying health condition

Bedwetting can also be caused by an underlying health condition, such as:

  • constipation – if a child's bowels become blocked, it can put pressure on the bladder and lead to bedwetting
  • a urinary tract infection (UTI) – your child may also have other symptoms, such as a fever and pain when they wee
  • type 1 diabetes – other symptoms of this include tiredness and feeling thirsty all the time 

Emotional problems

In some cases, bedwetting can be a sign your child is upset or worried.  Starting a new school, being bullied, or the arrival of a new baby in the family can be very stressful for a young child.

If your child has started wetting the bed after being dry at night for a while, there may be an emotional issue behind it.

Home treatments

Most children stop wetting the bed as they get older, but there are a number of treatments you can try in the meantime.

Offer plenty of drinks during the day

Make sure your child has enough to drink during the day - see guidance on how much fluid your child should be having.  It's best to avoid drinks for an hour before bedtime.

Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, such as cola, tea, coffee or hot chocolate, because they increase the urge to wee.

Encourage regular toilet breaks

Encourage your child to go to the toilet regularly during the day. Make sure your child has a wee before going to bed and can get to the toilet easily during the night.

Try a reward scheme

Bedwetting isn't something your child can control, so rewards shouldn't be based on whether they wet the bed or not.

Instead, you may want to give rewards for things like:

  • having plenty of drinks during the day
  • remembering to have a wee before bed

If your reward scheme isn't working after about a week, it's best to stop and try something else.

Tips for managing bedwetting

  • Make sure your child has easy access to the toilet at night. For example, if they have a bunk bed, they should sleep on the bottom bunk. You could also leave a light on in the bathroom and put a child's seat on the toilet.
  • Use waterproof covers on your child's mattress and duvet.
  • Avoid waking your child in the night or carrying them to the toilet, as it's not likely to help them in the long term.
  • Older children may want to change their own bedding at night, so make sure they have clean bedding and nightclothes handy.

Avoid punishments

It's important not to punish your child or withdraw treats if they wet the bed. This won't help. It might put them under more stress, which could lead to more bedwetting, not less.

Bedwetting alarms

If self-help tips don't help, a bedwetting alarm is usually the next step.

A bedwetting alarm has a sensor attached to an alarm. If the sensor gets wet, it sets the alarm off and wakes your child up.

You can also get vibrating alarms for children who have impaired hearing.

Where can you get bedwetting alarms?

Bedwetting alarms aren't available on the NHS, but you may be able to borrow one from your local enuresis or continence clinic. Your GP can tell you more.

You can also buy bedwetting alarms. ERIC: the Children's Bowel & Bladder Charity sells them for around £40-140, depending on the type. Or you can buy one elsewhere online.

How do they work?

Over time, the alarm should help your child to learn when they need to wee and wake up to go to the toilet.

It may help to reward your child for getting up when the alarm sounds and remembering to reset the alarm.

Bedwetting alarms usually need to be used for at least four weeks. If there are no signs of improvement after four weeks, speak to your doctor.

Bedwetting alarms aren't suitable for every child – for example, if they are sharing a room with a sibling.

More information and support for you

If you've tried treating bedwetting with home treatments and/or you or your child are finding it difficult to cope with bedwetting, talk to your school nurse or your GP.

You can also get more help from ERIC - the children's bowel and bladder charity. ERIC has practical tips for nights away from home, information on medications used to treat bedwetting, a webinar, resources for children and more.


Some of the information on this page has adapted from the NHS website and is licensed under OGL 3