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Sleep Disorders

My Brother-in-Law Wets the Bed

02/10/2009

Question:

My brother in law is 24 and has an issue with peeing the bed. It happens whether or not he drinks anything such as tea, kool aid, alcohol, sodas, and sometimes water. Is there anything he can try or certain types of underwear (besides adult briefs)? He gets really embarrassed by it. I know it`s hard for him, but I kind of get tired of cleaning everything when he stays here. Help me please!

Answer:

Bed wetting in sleep, also known as sleep enuresis, is quite common in children but begins to decrease in frequency once above the age of 5. Only about 1-2% of 18 year olds will have this problem and it becomes even less frequent in adulthood until urinary incontinence becomes a problem with aging (in the elderly population).

Most cases of sleep enuresis in adulthood are due to other underlying medical problems and do not represent a problem with the urinary system per se, though urinary tract disorders can also lead to enuresis. These conditions include obstructive sleep apnea (repetitive airway closing in sleep), congestive heart failure, diabetes, urinary tract infections, nighttime seizures, depression, severe psychological stress, and dementia. Of course, the excessive intake of fluids or substances that promote urination (i.e. diuretic medications, caffeine, and alcohol) can also lead nighttime bedwetting.

Based on the limited information in your question, it’s hard to know what the cause of your brother-in-law’s bed-wetting is. Additional history will be needed with important questions focusing on how long this has been a problem, what his behaviors are around bedtime, whether he has any history to suggest a urologic disorder or sleep disorder or if he has any other medical problems.

If there is suspicion for one of the above mentioned disorders, then your brother-in-law should discuss this issue with his primary care physician. Specific factors in his history will be useful in determining how best to further evaluate and treat his problem. Referral to a Sleep Specialist or a Urologist in his area may also be needed.

If you would like further information about sleep disorders or sleep itself, I recommend the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information about sleep medicine, the website also contains a list of accredited Sleep Centers and may help you to locate one nearest you. Good Luck!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University