ADHD and Bedwetting: 5 tips to make life better

Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is a parenting nightmare. The laundry piling up, the oblivious child who doesn’t seem to care, the oversensitive child who falls to pieces.  Throw ADHD into the equation, and you may as well invest in a commercial size washing machine.

There is a link between ADHD and bedwetting.

A quick perusal of the internet uncovered these statistics:

  • Bedwetting occurs three times as often in kids affected by ADHD than typical kids – Elizabeth Harstad, MD, MPH  
  • Population studies show that between 20 and 30% of children who wet their beds also have symptoms of ADHD –
ADHD and Bedwetting – model

So, what exactly is the link? 

If you, my reader, are a Medical Researcher – please, this topic needs more study!

As a parent of a bedwetter, I have read so many theories on ADHD and bedwetting. ADHD children have trouble focusing. Therefore, they have difficulty paying attention to their bladder’s needs and they don’t wake up. Both ADHD and Bedwetting are caused by a delay in the development of the central nervous system. (Harstad).

The bladder hasn’t increased in capacity enough. Something is preventing the release of a certain chemical that helps concentrate the urine. The child is sleeping too deeply. I have heard it all.

These theories are great, but don’t offer much relief. 

What I have learned from my own journey, and what my child’s specialists 100% agree with, is that there are underlying causes that can exasperate the symptoms of both ADHD and Bedwetting. If one treats these underlying causes, then the ADHD and Bedwetting may also improve.   (more on this here).

First, here are 5 tips to make life better

1. Find a supportive environment

ADHD kids needs supportive environements

My ADHD child was booted out of two daycares before I found Cindy’s day care. Cindy’s was at the far end of town, but every mile driven was worth it. Cindy took the time to remind my child to point his peanut at the toilet so as not make a mess. She reminded the daycare helpers to always make sure that peanut was pointed south in his pull-on protective undies, every time.

Cindy used every cream and every crazy product I gave her, just trying to help me find something that would help my son. She allowed (encouraged) therapists to come into her home to work with him. She drove my ADHD child to and from a preschool. She championed my child as if he as her own. Without Cindy, I doubt I would have been able to work while my ADHD child was a toddler.

This didn’t mean that Cindy didn’t get frustrated. My boy was off the charts size-wise: super tall, super skinny. He outgrew traditional protective undies before he outgrew preschool. And he not only suffered from night-time bedwetting; he suffered from daytime wetting too.

I found a supportive environment. I needed supportive products too.

2. Buy the right sized protective underwear

Pull-on protective undies for kids max out at size 5t. Night time protective undies are rated for 120 pounds, but their 120-pound kids must be not urinate as much as mine!

Without exploring the “Why” or the “How do I fix this” questions, how do you get past, well, the flood? The wet sheets… (continue reading).

Mattress protectors that work

3. Protect the mattress

A good mattress protector is crazy important. The odors of nighttime accidents are not easily removed from mattresses. They can make future nights sleep unpleasant to say the least.

 I dislike protectors that make me sweat, that crinkle, or otherwise make me feel like I’m sleeping on plastic. I want to protect my mattress… (continue reading)

4. Offer unconditional love and support

ADHD needs Unconditional Love and Support. models.

If your ADHD child is anything like my ADHD child, he may not care whether he wakes up in a wet bed or not. Like, literally doesn’t care!

There are some mornings when he would say he simply didn’t feel like walking to the bathroom, so he wet his bed instead.

Other mornings, he had no recollection of the bed-wetting. He was sleeping too heavily.

Don’t get frustrated by this. Experts say that not caring is a coping method some ADHD children use to protect themselves. If they truly don’t care about their perceived failure, then the failure wasn’t due to a lack of ability, it was due to the not caring. (Patricia Quinn, MD. ADDitude Magazine )

As a mom that cares to the point of creating self-inflicted anxiety, I can tell you this is frustrating.  I cope with the “Not Caring” by keeping him responsible for his actions. If your child is old enough, have him help do the laundry and make the bed. Help him take responsibility for his actions.

For the child that sleeps too heavily, there is nothing to do but help him wake up. I started off like many moms do – setting alarms for myself so I could wake up my son to use the bathroom. What I learned is that there was no consistency as to what time of night he needed to go. Some nights, he would wet himself as soon as an hour after going to bed. Some nights, it happened at 2 am. For the child that truly sleeps too heavily, I recommend using a bed-wetting alarm. More on that below!

Most importantly, don’t forget the unconditional love and support. I know my child’s bedwetting is caused, in part, by things that are hard to control. (More on that here). A hug will go a long way towards mitigating the embarrassment, and helping your child feel better about himself. Words of encouragement: Don’t worry, we’ll get this!

5. Alarms can help your child experience success

Switching to a bedwetting alarm gave me the freedom of only having to get myself up when my son actually needed to go. (More sleep for me, YAY!).

The first alarm I tried was not a success. The unit was difficult to clean, and the urine salts corroded the sensors. One stopped working, I called the company and they sent a replacement, and it did the SAME THING!

I had luck with this unit: (continue reading)

The nightly bed-wets are a thing of the past for us now.

My child’s body has matured. He has learned to listen to his body signals, but we still have relapses. The thing to remember is that there is a strong relationship between ADHD and bedwetting. One does not cause the other. I like to think of it more of as something else causes both.

I have pinpointed several things that cause the bedwetting and/or the relapses with my ADHD child. More on that here. Sometimes, the causes of a relapse mystify me.

I encourage you to take my experiences with a grain of salt. Your child may have the same causes. More likely, your child’s journey is unique.

What has made your journey easier? Please share your tips below.



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