Wetting the bed while sleeping is called enuresis. Most children outgrow bed wetting by the age of 6. Three percent of adolescents between 13 and 15 still suffer from enuresis, and 1 percent of teens still wet the bed after their 15th birthday. Most cases of enuresis are not caused by diseases. It is typically caused by the adolescent being an extremely heavy sleeper and the signal between the brain and the bladder not working properly. Wetting the bed can embarrass a teen and cause him to avoid overnight activities away from home. There are things he can do to reduce the chance he will wet the bed.
Wetting the bed as a teen can adversely impact the social growth that many teenagers experience as they mature. Going away to camp, taking part in sleepovers and heading out on the school bus to away games for the weekend can cause anxiety as the teen worries she will wet the bed and become the subject of ridicule. Electing to miss out on such events may be the only way she sees to save face. This cycle impedes her ability to stretch her wings and move between childhood and young adulthood.
Most cases of enuresis are not caused by psychological issues, according to the Massachusetts Hospital for Children; however, wetting the bed past childhood can create psychological issues including anxiety and depression.
Several factors can contribute to becoming a bed-wetting teenager. The signal from the bladder to the brain that lets the brain know the bladder is full may not work properly. The teenager may sleep very deeply and simply not awaken when the signal is sent. The teenager may have a smaller bladder than other teens, which means it fills up more quickly. If any of these factors are present, the bladder will release urine without the teenager realizing it.
Bed wetting is rarely a purposeful occurrence. A teenager who wets the bed is often deeply embarrassed and ashamed of not being able to control it. Berating the teenager, removing privileges, threatening to take away the car and other punishments will not cure the problem.
To rule out underlying causes such as diabetes, the teenager should be evaluated by a medical professional. During the visit a medical history will be taken and a physical examination performed. Urine and blood tests will be done to rule out substance abuse, diabetes and other issues. The possibility of a sleep disorder will also be ruled out.
Most cases of wetting the bed as a teenager will self-correct with time. For cases that do not self-correct, the teenager can try several things to reduce the chance he will wet the bed at night. Reducing the amount of liquid taken two hours before bedtime should help eliminate nighttime bed wetting. Urinating before bed and setting the alarm clock to awaken and use the bathroom midway through the night can help.
Throughout the day the teenager can practice holding his urine in for longer periods of time. This can retrain the bladder to hold it during sleeping hours. If these measures don’t work, specially designed alarms are available that will wake the adolescent up when his bladder is full. They have a moisture sensor attached that the adolescent places in his underwear near his urethra before going to sleep. When the bladder begins to release urine, the alarm will awaken the teenager so he can get to the restroom.
Medication has proven effective in 10 to 60 percent of teenagers when treating enuresis according to the Massachusetts Hospital for Children. They are designed to expand the capacity of the bladder to retain liquid. One medication, Desmopressin, is inhaled through the nose and stops nighttime bed wetting in 25 percent of patients who try it. Once the medication is stopped, however, there is an almost 100 percent relapse rate. This medication is often prescribed to use only as needed, such as during sleepovers or going away to camp.