Although bedwetting – or enuresis – is commonly associated with children, it can affect adults too. Adult bedwetting can be caused by a urinary tract infection, other medical condition, a side effect of medication, or stress. Other reasons for nocturnal enuresis can be related to the anatomy of your bladder, including if it is overactive, or smaller than usual.
What is nocturnal enuresis?
Nocturnal enuresis is defined as involuntary urination during the night, after an age when bladder control should be established. It is more common in children, but adult bedwetting is not rare – or anything to be ashamed of.
There are two kinds of enuresis: primary and secondary. The former refers to bedwetting since birth. Secondary is a condition that develops after you know how to control your bladder.
What causes bedwetting in adults?
There are various reasons a person might have, or develop, nocturnal enuresis. These range from medical conditions which require ongoing treatment or management, to more temporary reasons such as urinary tract infections or a reaction to medication.
Unfortunately, there isn’t always an obvious cause of bedwetting in adults. Some suggested causes include:
- Genetics: Although this doesn't apply to everyone, there is research to suggest nocturnal enuresis can be hereditary.
- Smaller functional bladder capacity: For some, it may be due to smaller functional bladder capacity, which refers to the amount of urine your bladder can hold before telling the brain to go to the toilet. Sometimes, overactivity of the bladder muscle means it's never fully relaxed during the filling phase, so bladder capacity is not as large.
- Overactive bladder: This causes an uncontrollable urge to urinate, even if the bladder holds little urine. Research has identified overactive bladder as occurring for many people experiencing nocturnal enuresis.
- Increased diuretic intake before bed: Some drinks (known as diuretics) can irritate the bladder, making the body
- Certain medication: Medication for the heart, blood pressure problems or mental illness and anxiety can alter the way your urinary system works, at times, reducing control over your bladder.
- Stress or anxiety: Conditions related to mental wellbeing can trigger bedwetting in adults, and the condition may continue after the root cause has been treated.
If you are experiencing adult bedwetting, remember you are not alone, and it is important to treat or manage. Although the condition may not have serious consequences to your physical health, it can affect your self-esteem and quality of life. It is important to discuss enuresis with your GP, to determine the cause and seek advice on the best treatment and management options.
How to stop adult bedwetting
If you wet the bed, the first step is to speak to your doctor. Before the appointment, your doctor will find it useful if you keep a diary of your urinary activity. This includes how often you go to the toilet, the frequency of your bedwetting, and notes on what, when, and how much you drink.
Your doctor may request a urine sample so they can test for an infection. They may also recommend a bladder test.
Other methods of treatment include:
- Medication: Certain medications are available to control nocturnal enuresis and may be advised as a long-term solution.
- Enuresis alarm: This is designed to wake you up if you begin to urinate during the night by sounding a buzzer or vibrating. It helps to teach your body to hold the urine until you wake up, allowing you to reach the toilet in time. These alarms are small and discreet and can be worn close to the body.
- Complementary therapies: For some, alternative medicines are preferable, including hypnosis or acupuncture. It’s best to seek advice from a trained practitioner before trying these methods.
Ways to manage nocturnal enuresis
Other ways you can manage bedwetting in adults include:
- Watching what you drink: Ideally, you should aim to drink at least six to eight glasses of fluid a day. Where possible, it’s best to drink most of this in the daytime and try to cut down in the evening. Try to avoid diuretics, like coffee, tea, and fizzy drinks too, as these can increase the need to use the toilet.
- Setting an alarm at night: Setting an alarm to wake you during the night for a loo break may reduce accidents. Vary the times you set the alarm, however, otherwise your bladder may fall into a habit of emptying at the same time, regardless of whether you are awake.
- Incontinence aids: Wearing an overnight incontinence product means you can sleep soundly and worry-free.
You're not alone in this - and there are simple ways to help take back control
Adult bedwetting affects more people that you might think. The condition can make normal activities, like holidays, business trips or starting a new relationship feel daunting, but the condition can be managed.
By talking to your GP and close family or friends, you can learn more about the condition and explore treatment and management methods with the support of those around you.
Incontinence products that offer overnight protection
It’s also worth considering an incontinence product that can offer overnight protection, so you can sleep without concern. Depend® Comfort Protect pants, available for women and men, have an overnight guarantee – so you can sleep soundly, feeling protected.