HEALTHY LIVING
01/26/2012 06:02 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2012

5 Tips For Battling Child Bedwetting

Bedwetting (or nocturnal enuresis) is a common sleep disorder. It usually affects children under the age of five, but can last into the teen years. We spoke to Rebecca Swan, M.D., director of the Pediatric Residency Program at the Monroe Carell Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think your child might have child bedwetting, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Shellie Braeuner

Bedwetting means urinating while asleep. This usually happens at night, but the child may urinate while napping at school or even sleeping in the car. The problem affects roughly 15 percent of children under the age of five. Boys tend to wet the bed more often than girls do, and many older children who wet the bed have one parent that wet the bed as a child. The exact cause of bedwetting is still a mystery. However, there is one thing that experts agree on: bedwetting is not the child's fault.

Avoid Evening Liquids

Reduce what the child drinks several hours before bedtime. "Help the child get into the habit of not drinking after dinner," Dr. Swan advises. Keep carbonated beverages to a minimum, since the carbonation can irritate the bladder.

Help The Child Exercise Control

The child cannot control the bedwetting, and that may make the child feel out of control of their life. Combat this by giving the child control over other aspects of bedtime. Let the child choose pajamas and bedtime stories. Give the child a choice in bed sheets and ask them to help make the bed. "Praise them when they do a good job," Dr. Swan adds. "Make sure that the child understands these activities are a part of growing up and not a punishment for wetting the bed."

Potty Patrol

Make sure the child uses the bathroom just prior to going to bed. "Sometimes, right before the parents retire, [parents] wake the child and take him to the bathroom," Dr. Swan says. "This has been helpful in some situations."

Bedwetting Alarms

Try a bedwetting alarm. These are battery-operated or wireless devices that alert the child when she starts to wet the bed. Sensors in special underwear or the mattress pad register when moisture appears. An alarm sounds that wakes the child, giving the child a chance to go to the bathroom. According to Dr. Swan, alarms work in 70 percent of bedwetting cases.

Seek Professional Help

If the child has been dry for a long time and suddenly starts wetting the bed, it may indicate other problems. Look for other stressors in the child's life, such as changing schools or the death of a person or pet. If the child continues to wet the bed, there is pain when the child urinates or the bedwetting affects the child's self-esteem, talk to the child's pediatrician.

Rebecca Swan, M.D., earned her medical degree at the Medical College of Virginia. She did her postgraduate training at the Kessler Medical Center on the Kessler Air Force Base. She is a member of both the Cumberland Pediatric Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Swan is currently the director of Pediatric Residency Program at the Monroe Carol Children's Hospital at the Vanderbillt Medical Center.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?

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