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Why does my 7-year-old still wet the bed?

By Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH

Question: My daughter is in second grade and still wets the bed at night — not every night, but often. Why is this still happening?

Answer:

Nighttime bedwetting (the medical term for this is nocturnal enuresis) is pretty common in young children. In fact, about 10 percent of 7-year-old kids have nighttime bedwetting. This usually goes away on its own over time. By the time kids are 10, only about 5 percent still have it. At ages 12 to 14,  just 2 to 3 percent still wet the bed. Nighttime bedwetting is more common in boys than in girls. 

For kids who have no daytime accidents, there may be a few reasons for wetting the bed at night. A common one is that the body just isn’t ready to stay dry at night. Certain things have to happen to stay dry, like being aware that the bladder is full and being able to stop the bladder from contracting. A delay in any of these can lead to prolonged nighttime wetting.

Genetics seem to play a role for some kids. Identical twins are more likely to both have bedwetting problems than non-identical twins and other siblings. Also, it’s very common for a parent of a child with bedwetting issues to have had problems with wetting the bed as a child.

Other things may contribute to bedwetting in some kids. One is increased urine output. Another is a problem with the hormone that helps concentrate urine at night. Small bladder capacity and very deep sleep can also cause bedwetting.

Also, bedwetting may be associated with developmental conditions like ADHD . Kids with ADHD are more likely to have bedwetting problems than other kids. It’s not clear why this is. Many kids who wet the bed at night don’t have challenges with attention.

Bedwetting can upset some children. They may think it’s their fault or feel embarrassed by it. Reassure your child that bedwetting is pretty common and it’s OK if it happens. You can tell your child that it usually goes away.

Other kids seem to not even notice the bedwetting, which can be frustrating for parents. Remember that bedwetting is not your child’s fault (or yours). And it will probably go away on its own with time. 

Most children with bedwetting don’t need medical treatment. But check with your child’s health care provider if you have concerns or if it doesn’t seem to be getting better. Usually, children will start to wet the bed less often over time. For example, they may go from seven wet nights per week to five, and fewer as time goes on. 

It’s possible for bedwetting to come on suddenly, or bedwetting plus daytime accidents. If that happens, talk with your child’s health care provider. That way, you can make sure there are no medical issues going on that should be treated.


 If you’re concerned your child may have ADHD, explore signs of ADHD and what to do next .

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Did you know?

Kids with ADHD are much more likely to have a learning disability than kids who don’t have ADHD. They’re also more likely to have anxiety or depression.

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