Angie's son Ethan has been a perfectly healthy child: not only physically, but mentally as well. He seems very happy and normal, and lives in a very happy family. Yet Ethan has a persistent problem. He's sleeps so deeply at night that he doesn't wake up to go to the washroom, and he goes in his sleep. The problem is the source of embarrassment and anxiety for Ethan. Angie, meanwhile, wonders where she went wrong.
It's tempting to blame ourselves as parents for something which causes our child such distress. The fact of the matter is, however, that bedwetting (or nocturnal enuresis) is simply a developmental problem that is, and will always be, an issue for a certain small percent of children.
It used to be thought that all bed wetting was the product of psychological problems with the child, or even psychological deficiencies. It is now known, however, that, more often than not, the cause is a physiological problem involving involuntary bodily functions, over which the child has no conscious control.
The majority of bedwetting among children is a developmental issue of the central nervous system. Ordinarily, the bladder is able to communicate with the brain by sending a message telling it that it needs to go the washroom. When this communication is underdeveloped it can be muted, especially in deep sleep. In essence, the signal being sent by the bladder to the brain but it is full is simply not sufficient to wake the child up. This connection, between the bladder and the brain, is usually the the underlying cause. Because it is a developmental problem, it is usually simply a matter of time before the child overcomes the problem.
In some cases bedwetting can also be caused by a weakness of the urethral sphincter. In these cases the child usually has problems with enuresis during the day (diurnal enuresis).
Less commonly, nocturnal enuresis can also be caused other medical problems. This is especially true in the cases of secondary enuresis (nocturnal enuresis occurring in children after they have had a dry period of at least 6 months). Another reason why you should always consult your physician about the problem.
When you visit your physician about the problem, it's a good idea to have as much relevant information about your child's specific case as possible. There are a few factors you could take note of: diurnal vs. nocturnal, onset (primary or secondary), frequency and severity (how many times a week/night), dietary habits, associated symptoms (such as lower back pain, nightmares, or abdominal pain).
As to why some children suffer from this condition and not others, it is generally accepted that heredity plays a large role. Studies have found that children whose parents suffered from nocturnal enuresis are far more likely to suffer from it themselves.