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Why do people wet the bed?

There are many different reasons why a person wets the bed. Some people who wet the bed at night also have problems with wetting during the day. It can happen to children, teenages and adults, and it affects both men and women. It may be a new problem or a childhood problem that hasn't been solved. It isn't caused by laziness and a person should never be punished for wetting the bed.

What causes bedwetting?

In children, teenages and adults, bedwetting can happen because:

  • the body makes a lot of urine overnight
  • the bladder is only able to hold a small amount of urine overnight
  • the person doesn't fully wake up when they need to pass urine.

Things that can add to the problem

A person may also wet the bed if they:

  • aren't able to ask for help when they need to pass urine overnight, e.g. because they can't communicate verbally
  • aren't able to get out of bed and reach the toilet by themselves
  • can't recognise that they need to pass urine because of their disability or dementia
  • take medicines or have an illness that causes them to make more urine overnight.

Who can help?

The person's general practitioner (GP) or other health care professional needs to make a detailed assessment if bedwetting is a problem. It's important to work out what's causing the problem and how best to treat it.

Tips to help reduce bedwetting

  • Follow the person's care plan. Make sure they are helped to the toilet before they go to bed at night. If they go to bed very early, e.g. to watch television, they may need to go to the toilet again before they go to sleep.
  • Check how much fluid the person is drinking - if the person is drinking large amounts, e.g. more than 3 litres, this means they will make more urine and have to go to the toilet more often.
  • Cut back the amount of caffeine and alcohol the person drinks, especially late in the evening and overnight.
  • If the person has swollen feet or ankles, it may help if they lie down and raise their legs in the afternoon.
  • Medicines, such as diuretics (e.g 'Lasix'), should be taken as prescribed, e.g. in the morning rather than at night.
  • Avoid constipation as the stored faeces can push on the bladder causing the person to need to go pass urine more often.
  • If the person snores or has sleep apnoea, this can add to the problem. If they have a CPAP machine, it should be used at night.
  • The person may need help to reach the toilet at night. If they don't feel the need to go, or can't tell someone when they need to go, this may need to be on a planned schedule.
  • You can use special bedding and other aids to keep the person and their bedding dry if they wet the bed. Check the person's care plan to see what is prescribed. A continence nurse advisor can give advice about the most suitable products as part of a continence assessment. Click here to watch a video demonstrating a waterproof doona cover to protect the doona from urine leakage.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence nurse advisor.

Extra Resources

Take the Quiz

Question 1

Bedwetting happens to:




all of the above.

Question 2

A person who wets the bed:

is lazy

is looking for attention

does it on purpose

should never be punished for wetting the bed.

Question 3

Bedwetting may happen because:

the body makes a lot of urine overnight

the person is too lazy to get up

the person doesn't make enough urine overnight

the bladder can store large amounts of urine.

Question 4

Bedwetting can be helped by:

having diuretics before bed

drinking coffee before going to bed

reducing how much the person drinks in the evening

raising the legs overnight while the person is sleeping.

This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.