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Dr Phil: Bed-wetting (video)

Hello there, I’m Dr Phil, can you guess what we are going to be talking about today? Yes that’s right, bed-wetting, well done.

Four things you need to remember about bed-wetting:

  1. it is very common
  2. nobody does it on purpose, so blaming people is completely pointless it only makes it worse
  3. it nearly always gets better in time
  4. if it is not getting better on its own there are treatments available so you do not need to suffer in silence.

Now to understand bed-wetting you need to understand where urine comes from. This turkey baster [represents] my kidneys and my ureter, which is the tube that leads down from the kidneys into the bladder, ‘Henry’ is my bladder. You don’t have to call your bladder Henry, it is entirely optional, in fact my bladder is called ‘P Diddy’, but Henry is actually the commonest name for a bladder. Normally you have two kidneys, I’ve only got the one because I have only got one turkey baster – I only ever baste one turkey at a time! You could have two kidneys and they are both feeding urine and waste products down into Henry during the day and during the night. Henry fills up and when Henry feels full there is a little gate on his nose that opens and urine passes out your urethra, which is this tube that comes out either through the end of your penis or just above your vagina depending what sex you are.

The crucial thing about wetting the bed is learning to get control over Henry’s nose. Henry has a gate in his nose and he should tell your brain when he wants to open that gate. So if you wet the bed at night it means that Henry has opened his gate without telling you. So the secret is to get/regain the control over the gate in Henry’s nose. Most people do eventually, a lot of kids wet the bed up to the age of 2 and then they gradually learn to get dry during the day. Up to the age of 5 most kids are dry at night, but quite a few aren’t and then about 1 in a 100 when you get into your mid-teens are still wetting the bed. It is still a pretty common problem, but because it gets better with time you don’t necessarily need any drug treatment. What you first need to do is to understand it and not to blame anyone and to think of strategies/ways of dealing with it, for example, waterproof covers and easily washable mattresses.

One of the big panics is often when you want to go and stay away i.e. sleep away for a few nights. There are a couple of tactics, which can help – you can get yourself a sleeping bag to sleep in, polyester something that is easily washable. Wear some pajamas as well so if you have an accident you can very quickly wrap everything up, i.e. the pajamas into the sleeping bag and pop them in the wash. Always have your clothes near by so that you can get dressed fairly quickly. Just occasionally when people are going away on a big trip for a few days the doctor might prescribe a drug called Desmopressin, it sounds very fancy, but it just stops the body from producing so much urine at night so the bladder doesn’t fill up.

Basically you will learn to get control of your bladder in time. Some parents lift their child during the night. There is no evidence that this actually reduces bed-wetting, but it does reduce the amount of urine that may be left during the night. Another tactic if things are not sorting themselves out on their own is to go to the doctor and ask whether you can use an alarm, there is an excellent charity called ERIC, look them up on internet (www.eric.org.uk) they will tell you about alarms. Basically, the alarm sensor is worn on your pants and then you wear a little alarm in your pajamas (you can get one that makes a noise or vibrates). If there is a little bit of wetness on the sensor it will set the alarm off and that will make you get up and wet the bed, I mean it will stop you wetting the bed! 

Other things you can do is to drink quite a bit of water during the day. It sounds as if it is the wrong thing to do, but actually letting your bladder learn how to control volumes of urine is actually a good way of training it. If you drink plenty during the day, gradually you will learn that sensation of the bladder being full. It is often when you are young and in a really deep sleep that you don’t actually hear Henry’s nose needing to be open, but actually if you drink during the day you understand what it feels like to actually go to the loo, often that is a good message to tell you to get up.There are other ways that you can make it easy; have a toilet near by, make sure there is easy access to get to the toilet, so obviously if you sleep in bunk beds sleep on the bottom bunk.

There is plenty of other good information on this website (www.embarrassingproblems.com),plenty of good information on the ERIC website (www.eric.org.uk) and information about me on drphilhammond.com

Thank you for listening, ‘bye’ says Henry.

Written by: Dr Phil Hammond
Edited by: Dr Phil Hammond
Last updated: Wednesday, October 11th 2017


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Comments on this article

Posted by Optional on 05/10/2017 at 10:13

All my life I have suffered with bed wetting I am ashamed and guilty. When I lived at home my mum rubbed wet sheets all over me said I was lazy. Sick of going to bed with pads terrified now of going on holidays etc, Doctor not helpfull have had bladder stretched , do the recomended exercises every day stopped having fluids after 5p.m. Have never drunk alchol go to the toilet before bed.

Posted by tng13 on 04/02/2015 at 07:54

22 y/o female. I have been a bed wetter for as long as I can remember. My mom took me to all different doctors trying to figure out the problem. Always trying new medications and tactics over the years. At this point I have lost all hope. I try not to drink as much at least 4 hours before going to bed and it helps but, it still happens around 3-4 times a week rather then everynight.

Posted by Optional on 07/01/2015 at 06:19

I am 18 and wetting my bed since I was a little girl, mom had my bladder tested, noting was wrong, what can I do

Posted by Too awkward to say on 22/04/2014 at 11:05

I never wet my bed at night ever, up until I was 13 I was fine. I peed myself one night and I thought it was a one off then it happened about 6 months later which I found weird but ignored it. Now a year later I haven't had a dry night for 3 nights and its really scaring me, this has never happened before, so why has it started now ??

Posted by Dan Howard on 10/08/2011 at 05:41

i have been partially incontinent since birth i wet uncontrollably at night and during the day i occasionally have accidents urine and fecal at 30 years old i am still a virgin becuse of it hoping to meet some one some day

Posted by Optional on 09/05/2011 at 07:22

I've been wetting my bed all my life, it was worse when i was a teenager & as an adult it would happen twice in a year or when maybe i hear people talking about and when im stressed, i've tryed not to drink lots of water before going to bed and setting a alarm to wake me up, my problem is that im married now with 3 kids.

Posted by Im Just Shy To Say It Out on 06/04/2011 at 11:31

I dont know why every night i always pee on my bed , worse is i dont even know that i even need to wake up and go to the toilet . I really need help about the every night i always pees on my bed ... I always pee on my bed because i dont have the feeling when i needed to pee out . Its like when i need to pee out i dont even know it and it naturelly comes out .

Posted by Chichi on 09/01/2011 at 10:43

This has really helped cos going 2 slp has become frightening these days!

Posted by SingingWizard on 08/01/2011 at 02:41

I am a bedwetter and urge incontinent. At night I dont know when i go pee pee on myself and wake up wet and cold. I love how you explained it but I told my mom it stoped a long time ago but could you help me tackle the going potty in the bed

Posted by BJBedwetter on 15/11/2010 at 12:37

Hi. I'm an 18 year old male who has a little problem. I don't wet the bed all the time, it happens randomly with years or so in between incidents. Why does this happen? Everywhere I look talks about people who wet the bed regularly. In my case it is just a random night that I wet the bed, but I wake up as soon as it starts. I have been very stressed. I do try exercising and eating healthy. Is there anything I can do to stop this?

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