Long after your child is in "big boy" training pants or underwear, he may still wet the bed at night. Bed-wetting, also known as nocturnal enuresis, can be embarrassing for a young boy and make him fear staying the night at a relative or friend's house. Nighttime potty training takes patience, persistence and more time than daytime potty training.
The Bladder at Night
Controlling the bladder at night is the last step in potty training. When babies are born, they do not have the internal signal to wake them up when they need to urinate. Sometime in childhood this signal develops and travels from the bladder through the nervous system and to the brain, but children who are heavy sleepers are less likely to respond to this signal and more likely to urinate in their sleep, according to Alan Greene, MD, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Training Time Frame
In general, boys take longer than girls to potty train and boys usually wet the bed at a later age compared to girls, according to FamilyDoctor.org. A study by the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin found that girls stayed dry during the day at a median age of 32.5 months while boys lagged behind at 35 months. Staying dry during the day precedes staying dry at night by many months and sometimes years. By 6 years of age, most children achieve nighttime bladder control.
To prevent nighttime accidents, your son should refrain from drinking beverages two hours before bedtime and relieve himself at the beginning of his bedtime routine and then immediately before he goes to bed. If he doesn't wake up when he needs to urinate, monitor the times he wets the bed and then set an alarm clock to wake him up prior to that time. Reward your child for staying dry during the night, but don't punish your child for nighttime accidents. FamilyDoctor.org also recommends teaching your son to hold his urine for a longer period during the day to help stretch the bladder's ability to hold more urine at night.
Many medical problems contribute to bed-wetting. Your son may have a small bladder or he may have more urine than the average size bladder can hold. The nerves that control the bladder may be slow to mature and unable to wake your child when he needs to relieve himself. Chronic constipation, diabetes and sleep apnea also can cause bed-wetting. If your son experiences cloudy, painful or foul-smelling urine, often accompanied by a fever, he may have a urinary tract infection. A defect in his neurological or urinary system may cause bed-wetting, but this is rare.
Nighttime Training Products
There are many products to help train your child stay dry at night. Bed-wetting alarms sound when the bed becomes wet to teach your child to respond to nighttime bladder sensations. Both disposable and reusable nighttime training pants hold more urine than regular training pants to keep your son dry throughout the night when he has a friend over or stays in a guest bed. Sheet and sleeping bag liners keep the bed or sleeping bag dry for the same purpose. Medication may be prescribed if your son wets the bed after 7 years of age.