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Also known as nocturnal urinary incontinence or nighttime wetting, nighttime incontinence is the involuntary release of urine while the individual is sleeping. Many children experience this condition between the ages of five and ten, but usually outgrow the bedwetting as their bodies continue to develop. In situations where the incontinence continues into later childhood or recurs during the adult years, physicians often look for certain physical and emotional factors that point to the origin of the health problem.
There are several possible reasons for nighttime incontinence. In children, there is the possibility that the body is developing at a slower pace. When this is the case, the growth of the bladder may not be progressing at a normal rate. As a result, the child with a smaller bladder may experience a more frequent need to urinate, often with very little control of the bodily function.
Sleep apnea can also serve as a trigger for nighttime incontinence in both children and adults. The interruption of a normal breathing pattern during sleep may cause the body to experience some distress, triggering the bladder to release any stored urine. There is also some evidence that genetics may play a role, suggesting that if one or both parents experienced bedwetting as children, their offspring are more likely to repeat the pattern.
Anxiety is also a possible cause for nighttime incontinence. The anxiety may take the form of preoccupation with a difficult situation at school or work that interferes with the normal sleep cycle and thus sets the stage for the bedwetting. In advanced cases, the individual may develop a full-blown anxiety disorder. Should a panic attack occur during sleep, the body’s reaction to the emotional anxiety may be to prompt the bladder to empty.
Fortunately, there are some treatments for nighttime incontinence that can help control the condition, or even eliminate the bedwetting altogether. Limiting the consumption of liquids for several hours before bedtime can be helpful in situations where the bladder or the urinary system is either developing at a slower pace or has been temporarily compromised due to an accident. There are also medications that may help minimize or even prevent involuntary urination at night. In situations where worry and anxiety is the root cause of the bedwetting, finding ways to neutralize the underlying reasons for the anxiety will often result in a cessation of nighttime incontinence, and allow the sufferer to sleep soundly through the night with no release of urine.