Stopping bedwetting in deep-sleeping children: do alarms work?

(2 - 3 Minute Read)

Deep sleeping isn't a cause of bedwetting, but it is more common for children who sleep deeply to wet the bed, and may take longer to treat. Using a bedwetting alarm is still the best way to beat bedwetting. These special approaches will help your heavy sleeper become dry at night.

Contents

Keep scrolling or choose the section that interests you.

  1. How to use a bedwetting alarm with a heavy sleeper
  2. Tips: The 5 Ps
  3. Troubleshooting: what's going wrong?
  4. Ask for help

How to use a bedwetting alarm with a heavy sleeper

Practice the alarm response when your child is awake

Help your child understand the alarm's meaning by practicing and pretending.

  • Explain to your child what to do when they hear the alarm. Walk them through it if needed.
  • Ask your child to get into bed and close their eyes.
  • Make the alarm go by putting something metal, like a spoon handle, across the moisture sensor.
  • The child responds by opening their eyes, getting out of bed, going to the bathroom and pretending to pee.
  • Repeat at least four times a night, for the first seven nights using the alarm.

How to help your child practice with the alarm

Use the alarm to wake yourself, then wake your child

Choose a wireless moisture sensor and alarm. The moisture sensor can go in the child's nightwear and the alarm with you up to 11 metres (35 feet) away. When the alarm goes, wake the child and make sure they get up and go to the bathroom.

There's also a wireless moisture sensor with two alarms if you want to put one near your child and keep one near you.

Wake your child gently. Wiping their face with a damp cloth works well.

It doesn't matter if the alarm or parent wakes the child. The child still learns the full-bladder feeling means wake up.

Tips for parents of deep-sleeping bedwetters

Use The Five Ps:

  • Practice and pretend: Help your child understand what to do when the alarm sounds by triggering the moisture sensor while they pretend to sleep. They should open their eyes, get out of bed, go to the bathroom and pretend to pee. Repeat at least four times, for the first seven nights.
  • Patience: It may take longer for kids that sleep deeply to learn not to wet the bed.
  • Persistence: Know that bedwetting alarms are the best way to solve bedwetting for deep sleepers and other children.
  • Plenty of praise when things go right. Use a sticker chart to help them aim for rewards when they manage 3, 5, 10 and more dry nights.
  • Be positive when mistakes happen. Tell your child you know they can do it.

Troubleshooting for bedwetting deep sleepers

If you've been following our advice and not seeing more dry nights, don't give up - try these ideas.

Lose the Lifting

Don't carry a child to the toilet without waking them (the Lifting technique). Studies show Lifting doesn't help stop bedwetting. It's the waking and taking action that helps kids learn.

Drink for a dry bed

Kids need to drink enough water to make their bladder grow stronger.

Give a 250 ml (8 fluid oz) glass of water six times a day. To help make a habit, use waking, meal times and getting home as cues to drink water.

Water is best - drinks with caffeine or sugar, including fruit juice, may dry the body.

Use code words to wake the brain

Try giving your child a new word to remember each time the alarm sounds, and ask them for it the next day. By just trying to remember a word, and better, saying it back the next day, a child is making their brain learn while they wake and go to the toilet.

Add remembering the code word to your child's reward program so they know it matters.

Waking when they wet matters

Children often wet the first time, sometimes the only time, about 1½ hours after falling asleep.

Deep sleepers are often very hard to wake at this time. It's important they wake properly.

Always let the alarm go off. If your child doesn't wake to the sound, wake them gently by wiping their face with a damp cloth. Talk to them as they lie in bed until they wake up fully. It may take 5 to 10 minutes. Asking questions like 'What's your address?' can help you know when they're awake.

Even if they've fully emptied their bladder, it's important they still get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash the moisture sensor, get a code word to remember and go back to bed. If they do this, the brain will learn to notice the full bladder in future and link it with waking.

How to wake a deep sleeping child

Even if your child is hard to wake when the bedwetting alarm goes off, follow this process to make sure they wake fully.

Reward small successes too

For most kids, getting to be dry every night goes in stages.

If your child seems to lose their drive, add smaller successes to their reward program. As well as dry nights, reward wet nights when your child:

  • wakes to the alarm
  • wakes, gets up and goes straight to the toilet
  • helps clean and dry the alarm, and goes straight back to bed
  • remembers the code word the next day.

Use the power of their imagination

Picturing what it means to stop wetting the bed helps many kids. Try these ideas:

  • During the day when your child needs to pee, ask them to first go to their bedroom, draw the curtains, lie in bed and shut their eyes. Ask them to say what their bladder feels like and why it means they need to wake and go to the bathroom. Having their own picture for that full-bladder feeling - a football, a fish tank or anything else! - can help children "see" it when they're asleep.
  • Children often want to stop wetting the bed more when a sleepover, holiday or school camp is coming. When one of these events nears, ask your child to imagine how much more fun they'd have if they didn't have to worry about bedwetting.

Consider medical problems

Rarely, deep-sleeping children who wet the bed have a medical problem, like:

  • sleep apnea (also known as sleep apnoea): pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while asleep
  • constipation
  • bladder infection (UTI)
  • low anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) levels.

In these cases, the medical problem needs treating first. If you think any of these may apply to your child, take them to a doctor.

Each child is different

If your child has a problem with heavy sleeping and bedwetting we haven't mentioned, we're here to help please ask our team

Disclaimer:
This blog is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professionals regarding any medical questions or conditions.

Lydia and her girls

My daughter loves the alarm. She’s told me to ‘sell my pull-ups on eBay mommy’. She just loves that she doesn’t have to wear pull-ups…

- Lydia Du Buisson