The Brain & Physiology

Sceptical that bedwetting alarms work?

Sceptical that such a big issue can have such a simple solution?

A frequent comment when parents are responding to the user surveys that DRI Sleeper® carries out is that the parent was quite sceptical about whether the bedwetting alarm would work, but was pleasantly surprised that it did.

Dr Page was rather puzzled by these comments because bedwetting alarms have been proven over decades of research, and also by our own follow-up surveys of the DRI Sleeper® eclipse alarm and the DRI Sleeper® excel alarm. In fact it is the only method of curing enuresis that has proven long-term success. Somehow this information still left parents feeling sceptical. .

However, recently one of the parents explained the basis for her scepticism and it made a great deal of sense. She said that, for their family, bedwetting was a huge issue and had been driving them to despair, because nothing they had tried had cured it. The idea that for a big problem there could be a simple solution, was hard to believe. So that was it, the large size of the problem on the one hand, and a method that appeared quite simple on the other, and the two did not fit together in her mind.

However, she was pleased to report that the bedwetting treatment had been effective, and did exactly what it said it would. Certainly it needs a committed parent and child who will consistently use the bedwetting alarm during the treatment, and if that is done, then the rate of successful outcome is very high.

So, if you are feeling sceptical because of how big the problem of bedwetting feels to you, but a treatment method is being offered which appears too simple, then please be assured that in the vast majority of cases treatment with the DRI Sleeper® excel and the DRI Sleeper® eclipse is successful.

Simple process, but complex changes are happening

Certainly the process is simple, but here is some more explanation as to what is actually happening at a brain and physiological level.

The brain learning part:

The underlying mechanism that brings about the solution to bedwetting is thought to be a behavioural principle discovered in 1921 by a Russian physiologist, Pavlov. This kind of learning, called Pavlovian conditioning, is the basis for large amounts of our learning, in particular the learning that we are not aware of. Pavlov simply found that when two events occur together, then the brain may automatically connect them. When answering if bedwetting alarms work, we know the bladder is under pressure at the same time as the alarm sounds and wakes the child. Over a period of weeks the child’s brain connects waking to the alarm and pressure in the bladder, and so in time pressure in the bladder brings about waking without the need for the alarm.

The physiological part:

But there is even more to it than that, although there needs to be more research on this part. It is known that bedwetters sleep very heavily, but so do many children who are not bedwetters. There has to be more than just heavy sleeping, and there is.


The second part of the pattern is that bedwetters produce too much urine at night.

Any parent of a bedwetter knows that they produce a lot of urine at night, often too much to be held in the disposable pull-up. This is why many parents believe that it may be something to do with their child drinking too much before going to bed, and so they try limiting their drinks during the evening. This strategy is spectacularly unsuccessful, and the reason is found in what is happening in the bedwetter’s brain.

Usually when we go to sleep at night our brain produces a hormone which reduces the production of urine by the kidneys. However, it appears that part of the genetic pattern associated with bedwetting, is that the bedwetter’s brain does not produce enough of the hormone, and therefore the kidneys continued to produce just as much urine at night as they do during the day.

This means that bedwetters have 2 problems, they sleep very heavily and they produce too much urine.

The part of the treatment that is still a mystery is that that after a bedwetter has learned to wake successfully using a bedwetting alarm, or even as this learning is still happening, then it appears to kick-start the brain into producing more of the hormone that cuts down the production of urine.So, a child who may have been wetting the bed 3 times a night will now need to wake perhaps once, or maybe not at all during the night to go to the bathroom. This indicates that the amount of urine that is being produced during the night has reduced.

Therefore while it can be said with some certainty that using a bedwetting alarm trains the brain to wake to increasing bladder pressure, it also appears that it has some effect on the brain to boost the amount of that hormone needed to reduce the amount of urine being produced at night. This is proof that bedwetting alarms do work!

And so back to where we started, a problem that can appear so complex can have a simple solution, but the simple solution is actually making some complex changes happen.

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