Deep Sleep and Bedwetting

Young children who wet the bet are not always deep sleepers.

Many parents believe that their child’s deep sleep is causing bedwetting since the child can’t seem to wake up to go.  Without a doubt, most bedwetters are difficult to wake up from sleep.  In fact, it isn’t unusual for bedwetters not to wake up to a loud device called a ‘bedwetting alarm’.  And often the whole family other than the bedwetter will wake up to this alarm!  However, not all deep sleepers wet the bed. 

Many bedwetters are difficult to wake up!

A study carried out by Institute of Experimental Clinical Research, Denmark, shows that bedwetting children are ‘normal sleepers’.1 Yet, why does it appear that most parents of chronic bedwetters feel their child sleeps deeply?

Senior lecturer Tryggve Neveus at Uppsala University in Sweden suggests it is because these children can be so difficult to wake. Their sleep is ‘normal’ but their ability to wake up from sleep is more problematic. Not only are they failing to wake up from the sensations of needing to go, but they can’t wake up to get to the toilet in time.  He also states that even if the sleep is “deep” it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good, in fact, he suggests that sleep quality in bedwetting children may be poor.

Other research has shown that children with nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) have more fragmented sleep and move around a lot in their sleep.3

Therefore, it is helpful to ensure that children who wet the bed aren’t overtired and get good quality, sufficient sleep with the aim of making it easier for them to wake up to go to the toilet.

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How to increase sleep quality

  • Limit eating two hours before bed.  Digestion hinders sleeping as it requires a great deal of energy.4In addition, cutting back on food consumption before bed also stops the bowel from pressing against the bladder and reducing bladder capacity.5
  • Sugar, soft drinks and caffeine before bed also hinder good quality sleep and can increase bedwetting.
  • Milk can also increase the tendency for some children to wet the bed.
  • Limit computer use before bed. Basically, the light from the screen, especially from smaller devices such as phones and tablets, has been found to significantly reduce levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle.6

Increase the amount of sleep

  • Set a regular time for bed and to wake up in the morning. Melatonin levels begin to increase approximately two hours before bedtime, so keeping a regular sleep schedule will aid the sleep cycle.6
  • Set a regular and calm routine at bedtime so your child’s body knows what activities lead to sleep.
  • Ensure your child is getting enough sleep.  Although children vary in the amount of sleep they need, parents often underestimate how much they should be getting for their age.
  • According to the Sleep Health Foundation, it is recommended that a child between the age of six and thirteen years has nine to eleven hours of sleep.7  Lifestyle is also important to take into consideration. If your child has started school, is undertaking tests, has various activities during the week or is close to the end of term, he or she may need more sleep. Likewise, if your child wakes up tired most mornings, this can also indicate insufficient sleep.
  • Ideally, the bedroom should be dark (and your child has no light coming in from the windows). Equally important, a bright night light can hinder going to sleep and also affect the quality of sleep.

Conclusion

Although it doesn’t appear that deep sleep causes bedwetting, improving the amount and quality of sleep can help lead to more dry nights.

Is your child a deep sleeper?  Do you agree?  Does your child sleep like a baby or move around a lot and have fragmented sleep?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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References

  1. Jens Peter Nørgaard, Jens Christian Djurhuus “The Pathophysiology of Enuresis in Children and Young Adults” Clin Pediatr (Phila). July 1993 vol. 32 no. 1 suppl 5-9
  2. Nevéus T., Enuretic sleep: deep, disturbed or just wet? Pediatr Nephrol. 2008 Aug;23(8):1201-2. doi: 10.1007/s00467-008-0859-1. Epub 2008 May 15.
  3. Dhondt K, Van Herzeele C, Roels SP, Raes A, Groen LA, Hoebeke P, Walle JV. Sleep fragmentation and periodic limb movements in children with monosymptomatic nocturnal enuresis and polyuria. Pediatr Nephrol. 2015 Jul;30(7):1157-62. doi: 10.1007/s00467-015-3044-3. Epub 2015 Feb 11. PMID: 25669760.
  4. Crystal Saltrelli “Whats the Connection Between Sleep and Digestion, Blog, MARCH 11, 2010, accessesd 30 June 2006 http://livingwithgastroparesis.com/gastroparesis-sleep/
  5. Mike Klawitter, School of Medicine and Public Health, Published 02/20/2009, accessed 30 June 2016 http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/wetting-the-bed-could-be-all-in-the-head/332
  6. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Sleep Hormone: Melatonin, Accessed 30 June 2016 http://blog.withings.com/2014/08/26/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-sleep-hormone-melatonin/
  7. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/children-and-sleep/page/0/2, Accessed 30 June 2016
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Stay Dry at Night is a breakthrough bedwetting program that aims to build communication between the brain and bladder so that your child wakes up to go to the toilet, or stays dry all night.

 The program provides essential bedwetting information, cognitive techniques and recordings for your child to listen to at night, and ongoing help and support.  

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