By:  Karen Sullen

When a child is asleep, it may be more difficult for him to control his bladder and urges to urinate.  Whether it's a deep sleep or just the excitement of an upcoming activity, there are many factors that can cause a child to wet the bed, a condition referred to as nocturnal enuresis.  Constantly changing wet baby blankets and sheets, bedwetting can be admittedly troublesome for the parent and embarrassing for the child.  Even though children are potty trained at an early age, bedwetting is still a common problem for children between the ages of 5-8 years old.  About 15% of kids wet the bed when they are five years old, and 7-10% of seven year olds and 3% of 10 year olds are also bedwetters.  While there is comfort in knowing that most children will outgrow this stage in their life, many parents are left wondering about the causes of bedwetting and what they can do to help their children during this time.

Rarely is bedwetting caused by a disease or abnormality.  The typical reasons a child may wet the bed include:  stress or excitement about an upcoming event, small bladder size, not being able to successfully determine when the bladder is full and deep-sleep patterns.  Even a child who has previously been able to sleep dry through the night can suddenly begin wetting the bed because of these issues.  In addition, genetics can also play a role in bedwetting.  Most studies indicate that, if one or both parents were bedwetters, there is a very good chance that their children will wet the bed too.  Help your child to wake up to a dry bed every morning with these tips:

-    Avoid late-night liquids.  Stop drinking fluids at least two hours before bedtime.  
-    Be sure your child empties his bladder before going to bed.  Make a final trip to the bathroom a part of your nightly routine.   
-    Watch what your child eats during mealtime.  Foods with caffeine, sodas, sport drinks, and citrus fruits with high water content often cause excessive urination, especially in a child with a developing bladder.  
-    When your child wets the bed, let him help you change the wet sheets.  While it should not be seen as punishment, it's a good way to reinforce cause and effect.
-    Consider incorporating a mid-night potty break.  After your child has been sleep for 3-4 hours, wake the child so that he can go to the bathroom.  Since he probably goes to bed earlier than you, this can easily be done at your bedtime or by setting an alarm.
-    Train your child to detect "wetness" with a potty pager or alarm that alerts your child at the first sign of wetness so that he can wake up and go to the bathroom.  Typically a child will modify their behavior after about 2-3 months.  
-    Nighttime training pants can also be worn to help contain urine through the night and protect the bed, clothes, etc.  
-    Establish a reward system for keeping the bed dry through the night. 

Until bedwetting is under control, protect the mattress with a plastic cover and above all, reassure the child this is a common problem at this stage and it will not last forever.  Patience and persistence are the key to a dry night's sleep.