How to Help a Teenager Stop Wetting the Bed

Teen boy asleep in bed
Tetra Images / Getty Images

While many parents understand when their child wets the bed at age 4, bed-wetting at age 14 can come as a surprise. Referred to as nocturnal enuresis, bedwetting is actually more common in teenagers than you might think.

Studies estimate that about 4 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls wet the bed during adolescence. Many teens outgrow bed-wetting before they become adults. By age 18, only about 1.5 percent of males and 0.5 percent of females still wet the bed.

Reasons Teens Still Wet the Bed

In adults, a full bladder sends a message to the brain that wakes an individual up in the middle of the night. Most kids slowly develop this ability over time. Some of them stop wetting the bed as preschoolers. But others don’t develop this ability until much later in life.

There are many theories about why some teens haven’t yet developed the ability to wake up in time to use the restroom. Here are a few factors that may contribute to bed-wetting:

  • Genetics: If both parents wet the bed until later ages, a child has a 77 percent chance of being a bedwetter. If one parent wet the bed, the probability of a child wetting the bed is 44 percent.
  • Bladder problems: Some teens have relatively small bladders that can’t hold much urine. Others experience muscle spasms that can lead to nocturnal enuresis.
  • Sleep disorders: Some teens are sound sleepers. They just can’t wake up enough to get up and go to the bathroom before they have an accident. Other teens may have a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, which makes it hard for them to wake up.
  • Unusual sleep patterns: Most teens aren’t getting enough sleep on school nights. Consequently, many of them nap during the day or sleep in late on the weekends. Those sleep patterns can interfere with the brain’s normal cycles, which may make it harder for the bladder to communicate with the brain during sleep.
  • Stress: Some experts believe stressful events, like a change in schools or a divorce, could lead to bed-wetting. Other experts believe stressed-out kids engage in behavior that increases the chances that they’ll wet the bed—like eating salty foods and drinking more fluids at bedtime.
  • Medical issues: Certain medical problems, like urinary tract infections, may lead to sudden bed-wetting. Other conditions, like diabetes, constipation, or urinary tract abnormalities may also contribute to bed-wetting.
  • Caffeine: Drinking too much caffeine, especially late in the day, may increase the chances a teen will wet the bed. Not only could caffeine interfere with your teen’s sleep but it also increases the amount of urine made by the kidneys. If your teen consumes soda, energy drinks, or other caffeinated beverages, it may be a good idea to curb his caffeine intake.
  • Too much liquid intake at night: Drinking too much water or other beverages late in the evening increases the chances your child will have a full bladder overnight. And if your child doesn’t wake up when his bladder is full, he’ll wet the bed.

Treatments

It’s important to consider whether your teen has always wet the bed or if it’s a new behavior.

If bed-wetting is a new problem, make sure to rule out any physical or psychological health issues before attempting to treat it. Talk to your teen’s doctor about bed-wetting.

Once medical issues are ruled out, here are a few strategies that might help:

  • Limit drinks after bedtime. Encourage your teen to stay well hydrated during the day. But limit the amount of liquid they consume after dinner.
  • Encourage your teen to use the bathroom before bed. It's common for teens to fall asleep using their electronics in bed or to get so busy they forget to use the bathroom. Encourage healthy sleep habits and remind your teen they'll reduce the chances that they'll wet the bed if they go to sleep with an empty bladder.
  • Try a bed-wetting alarm. A bed-wetting alarm is an alarm designed to wake children up when they begin to wet the bed. A moisture sensor makes a buzzing or beeping noise at the first indication that a child is wetting the bed. The noise should wake up your teen so they can use the restroom. Over time, this behavior modification technique helps your teen learn to recognize a full bladder before they begin to wet the bed.
  • Talk to your teen’s doctor about medication. While there isn’t a single prescription that cures bed-wetting, there are medications that might help decrease the amount of urine released by the kidneys or increase the amount of urine the bladder can hold. Talk to your teen’s doctor about the potential risks and benefits of ​a medication.
  • Consider therapy if your teen is experiencing emotional effects. Teens who wet the bed may experience shame, embarrassment, and self-esteem issues. It may also impact your child’s social life. Talk therapy can address body image issues, help her gain confidence, and assist her with the emotional turmoil she may be experiencing.

Talk to your teen about your willingness to support her efforts in getting help. Get your teen involved in treatment as well. Encourage him to keep a journal or a calendar that tracks his daily activities. He may discover certain foods or drinks seem to trigger bed-wetting.

Remind your teen that treatment isn’t likely to work immediately. You may need to try several different options and it may take a few months. But, if you work hard to address the problem, you’ll have a better chance of resolving it.

How to Handle Sleepovers

Most teens who wet the bed don’t want their peers to know. Consequently, many of them avoid sleepovers, camping trips, and outings where their friends may find out they wet the bed.

Whether it’s an overnight band trip with their friends or an opportunity to go to basketball camp for the week, encourage your teen to participate. Talk about strategies that will help them keep their bed-wetting issue private, even when they're sleeping in the same room as other people.

Consider teen-sized disposal undergarments. Many of them look like regular underwear and your teen’s friends won’t know the difference. Depending on your teen’s weight, you may need to opt for adult-size incontinence products.

Problem-solve with your teen regarding strategies they could use to dispose of their undergarment discreetly. Providing a large plastic bag that your teen could place their undergarment in might be a way to prevent their friends from suspecting anything.

If your teen is going to a slumber party at a friend’s house, talk about the pros and cons of letting the friend’s parents know ahead of time. The other parents could ensure your teen has an opportunity to discreetly dispose of a disposable undergarment without the other teens knowing.

Talk to Your Teen About Bed-Wetting

It’s likely your teen won’t want to talk openly about bed-wetting. But, it’s important that you send the message that there’s no reason to be ashamed.

This is especially important if you’ve noticed your teen is trying to hide the fact that they wet the bed. Perhaps they've started changing their sheets more often or maybe you’ve noticed they're doing more laundry lately.

If you suspect your teen has been wetting the bed, ask in a kind but direct manner. Say, “If you have been wetting the bed, that’s OK. I just want to make sure we talk to your doctor about it to make sure you don’t have a medical problem.”

Explain in a matter of fact manner that their brain simply doesn’t wake them up when their bladder is full. But that over time, this will likely change and they'll stop wetting the bed.

Be willing to listen, too. Validate your teen’s feelings and acknowledge how bedwetting can be tough.

But overall, make sure your teen knows that they aren't alone. If you used to wet the bed as a teen, talk about it. And remind them that there are likely other kids at school going through the same thing.

How You Can Help

Let your teen take responsibility for cleaning up after they have wet the bed. Request that they do their own laundry when they have an accident. Keep a spare set of sheets handy so they can make their own bed after an accident.

Provide your teen with a washable mattress pad that will protect the mattress. You can also talk to your teen about washable mattress underpads, which lay on top of the sheets.

Make sure to respect your teen’s privacy. If they don't want Grandma or their little brother to know they're wetting the bed, respect that.

Avoid getting angry or frustrated with your teen, even when you’ve already cleaned the sheets three times this week. Be kind and supportive and understand that your teen isn’t doing this on purpose.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Drutz JE, Naiwen TD. Patient education: Bedwetting in children (beyond the basics). UpToDate. 2019.

  2. Sinha R, Raut S. Management of nocturnal enuresis - myths and factsWorld J Nephrol. 2016;5(4):328–338. doi:10.5527/wjn.v5.i4.328

Additional Reading