What’s the link between
bedwetting and ADHD?
ADHD (Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a relatively common condition that affects a person’s behaviour, which can become evident in childhood, particularly when a child starts school1. In fact, studies show that around 2% to 7% of people experience ADHD globally2. While there are many signs that a child may have ADHD, such as difficulty maintaining attention on tasks, fidgeting and trouble waiting for their turn and sharing3, bedwetting can also be an indicator of ADHD4. Read on to find out why, and how you can manage this combination of issues in children.
What do we mean by ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects how a person behaves. It is usually diagnosed when a child is under 12 years old, if it wasn’t picked up when they started school initially5. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it affects the development of the brain, and refers to a pattern of behaviour that affects a child in most situations6. While symptoms may change as a child matures, the two main signs of ADHD are inattention and hyperactivity7. These can be seen in the following behaviours:
- having difficulty focusing on tasks
- being forgetful
- being easily distracted
- having trouble sitting still
- interrupting others when they’re speaking8.
Despite its commonness, little is known about what causes this condition, but it is believed to potentially have neurological and/or genetic origins9. There is, unfortunately, not just one test to diagnose ADHD, so your doctor will likely assess any ADHD symptoms your child has been experiencing for the past six months, as well as do a physical exam and take a medical history to rule out any other potential causes10.
Furthermore, ADHD is the most common coexisting condition for children with autism, though the two may also be confused due to similar presenting signs11. It’s important to seek help through your doctor if you suspect your child has one or both of these conditions, particularly if you have any concerns. Nonetheless, with the correct support, people with these conditions can lead happy, fulfilling lives12.
How are ADHD and bedwetting linked?
As we said, ADHD and bedwetting can be linked; in fact, the rate of accidents is almost three times higher in children with ADHD19. While it’s not entirely clear why, some research has suggested that this connection may be due to ADHD causing a developmental delay in the central nervous system, which may cause children to not recognise when their bladder is full20. Also, the link between ADHD and bedwetting could be caused by the following:
- a lack of impulse control, causing a child with ADHD to miss their body’s cues that they need the toilet
- changes in sleep due to hormonal changes
- increased stress if a child is always ‘on the go’
- behaviour differences that lead a child to struggle to read their normal bodily cues21.
If your child is wetting the bed due to ADHD, the iD Comfy Junior range is a good option to consider. The iD Comfy Junior Pants are suitable for children from eight to 15 years old. They fit just like normal underwear, offering a great absorbency capacity and maximum discretion and comfort. We highly encourage you to seek a doctor's opinion to learn how to support your child further.
What counts as bedwetting?
Bedwetting is also very prevalent in children, with around 15% of children over seven years old experiencing it13. It can run in families, and most children and young people will grow out of it14. Also known as nocturnal enuresis, it is when a person involuntarily urinates while asleep15. There are many things that could cause bedwetting, including:
- a bladder that cannot stretch enough to hold urine
- not waking up when their bladder sends a signal that it’s full16
- an overactive bladder
- urinary tract infections (or UTIs)
- family history
- ineffective bedtime routines18.
If you have any concerns about your child’s health, we recommend that you speak to your doctor.
How to manage bedwetting caused by ADHD
Both bedwetting and ADHD can be difficult conditions for parents to cope with. Nonetheless, there are lots of tips and tricks you can follow to help manage nocturnal enuresis, such as:
- encouraging your child to drink enough throughout the day, but limit drinks in the run-up to bedtime
- avoiding caffeinated and fizzy drinks, such as colas, which can stimulate the bladder
- a bedwetting alarm
- a disposable mattress protector or a washable matteress protector such as Kylie Kids Supreme Mac and training pants, like iD Comfy Junior Pants, at night-time
- a calendar to track progress and see how well management techniques are working22
- developing a toileting schedule to help your kid to remember to listen to their body’s cues
- encouraging your child to go to the loo right before bedtime23.
With all these tips in your arsenal, you’ll be sure to reduce any distress caused by bedwetting and ADHD.
1 “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”, NHS, 24 December 2021, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/
2 “ADHD Incidence”, ADHD UK, n.d., Source: https://adhduk.co.uk/adhd-incidence/
3 “Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 August 202, Source: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html
4 “What's the link between ADHD and bedwetting?”, Beth Sissons, 24 November 2022, Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-bedwetting
5 “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”, NHS, 24 December 2021, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/
6 “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”, The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, October 2016, Source: https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/general-medical-conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/
8 “Everything You Need to Know About ADHD”, Traci Angel, Source: 13 October 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd
10 “What Is ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adults”, ADDitude Editors, 19 January 2023, Source: https://www.additudemag.com/what-is-adhd-symptoms-causes-treatments/
11 “ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder”, CHADD, n.d., Source: https://chadd.org/about-adhd/adhd-and-autism-spectrum-disorder/
12 “ADHD and Autism”, John Perritano, 18 May 2022, Source: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/adhd-or-autism
13 “Bedwetting – reasons and how to stop it”, eric, October 2022, Source: https://eric.org.uk/childrens-bladders/bedwetting/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwiZqhBhCJARIsACHHEH_oHASfveh6hF4PnKNCnZAQO0bO_JU1W_KMKuqSfB7a1OLopw91XUoaAs0kEALw_wcB
14 “Bedwetting in children”, NHS, 27 April 2020, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bedwetting/
15 “Nocturnal Enuresis (‘bedwetting’) in children”, Cambridge University Hospitals, 11 May 2020, Source: https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/patient-information/nocturnal-enuresis-bedwetting-in-children/
16 “Bedwetting – reasons and how to stop it”, eric, October 2022, Source: https://eric.org.uk/childrens-bladders/bedwetting/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwiZqhBhCJARIsACHHEH_oHASfveh6hF4PnKNCnZAQO0bO_JU1W_KMKuqSfB7a1OLopw91XUoaAs0kEALw_wcB
17 “Bedwetting in children”, NHS, 27 April 2020, Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bedwetting/
18 “Nocturnal Enuresis (‘bedwetting’) in children”, Cambridge University Hospitals, 11 May 2020, Source: https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/patient-information/nocturnal-enuresis-bedwetting-in-children/
19 “What’s the Link Between ADHD and Bedwetting?”, Next Step 4 ADHD, 15 March 2021, Source: https://nextstep4adhd.com/whats-the-link-between-adhd-and-bedwetting/
20 “What's the link between ADHD and bedwetting?”, Beth Sissons, 24 November 2022, Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-bedwetting
21 “What’s the Link Between ADHD and Bedwetting?”, Next Step 4 ADHD, 15 March 2021, Source: https://nextstep4adhd.com/whats-the-link-between-adhd-and-bedwetting/
22 “What's the link between ADHD and bedwetting?”, Beth Sissons, 24 November 2022, Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/adhd-bedwetting
23 “What’s the Link Between ADHD and Bedwetting?”, Next Step 4 ADHD, 15 March 2021, Source: https://nextstep4adhd.com/whats-the-link-between-adhd-and-bedwetting/
This article was originally published on iD Direct and has been edited and republished here with permission.
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