Bedwetting, also called, Nocturnal Enuresis, refers to involuntary urination during sleep in children over the age of 5. Many children who have achieved daytime dryness with potty training continue to struggle with bed wetting for years. Nighttime bladder control is considered the last stage of potty training and can take some children a little more time to master. Wetting the bed before the age of 6 or 7 is considered a natural part of development and tends to resolve itself over time and a single episode of bedwetting is typically not a problem, even in an older child.

The National Sleep Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Boston estimate that between 13-20% of 5-year-old children, 10% of 7-year-olds, and 5% of 10-year-old children still wet the bed. Between five and seven million children in the United States wet their beds on a regular basis, which accounts for 10% of the United States population of children.

There are two types of bedwetting: Primary bedwetting is when the child has never had nighttime control over urination. Secondary bedwetting occurs when a child has achieved nighttime continence, but experiences a return bout of nighttime wetness due to psychological stress or some underlying medical cause. Over three-quarters of the children affected by bedwetting exhibit primary bedwetting symptoms while the rest experience secondary bedwetting symptoms. Interestingly, one 2008 study in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health showed that children over the age of 10 who continued to struggle with bedwetting were also more likely to have emotional difficulties. Primary bedwetting may be more common, but it seems that parents have more reason to be concerned if a child develops secondary bedwetting for a prolonged period of time.

Getting to the Bottom of Bedwetting Statistics

Trying to make sense of the many studies and statistics on bedwetting can be broken down as follows:

  • If your child is under the age of 6 or 7, and they have never achieved nighttime continence, try and be patient; your child’s bedwetting will most likely resolve itself as they mature.
  • If your child is under the age of 6 or 7, they have achieved nighttime continence, but they are still having frequent accidents at night, consider making an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss your child’s history, rule out medical causes (e.g., urinary tract infections, diabetes), and develop a plan for helping your child to stay dry at night.
  • If your child is over the age of 6 or 7, and they have frequent accidents at night, make an appointment with your pediatrician.

In most cases, your child’s bedwetting symptoms are the consequence of a normal developmental process, and your child will be able to achieve nighttime continence with a little bit of time. Knowing the 411 on typical development will help you be able to make decisions about whether you should schedule the appointment with your pediatrician or hold off in order to let time take do the hard work.