Bedwetting Alarms

Bedwetting alarms are among the safest & most effective of all bedwetting therapies. The alarms have a simple moisture-sensor that snaps into the pajamas.

Question

Dear Dr. Greene, thank you so much for what you wrote about bedwetters being deep sleepers! I knew that my 7-year-old (who wets the bed every night) was a deep sleeper, but my doctor said it had nothing to do with that. Your answer made so much sense! My question is, how can I help him learn to wake up when his bladder is full? I tried a bedwetting alarm for two weeks, but it was a miserable failure -- it never woke him up!!!
Napa, California

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

How frustrating! His sleeping through the alarm, though, is a sign that treatments aimed at making it easier for him to wake up are likely to be particularly effective for him.

Bedwetting Treatment

All rational treatments for primary nocturnal enuresis, the most common form of bedwetting, are aimed at either teaching the child to wake up when the bladder is full or at decreasing the need for nighttime urination. I will discuss with you several ways to teach children to wake up. Any child beyond the sixth birthday, though, should have a medical evaluation to rule out other underlying problems before instituting any therapy for bedwetting.

Bedwetting Alarms

Bedwetting alarms are among the safest and most effective of all therapies. The alarms have a simple moisture-sensor that snaps into your son’s pajamas. A small speaker attaches up on the shoulder with Velcro. At the first drop of urine, a piercing alarm goes off, that sounds similar to a smoke alarm. Instantly, the child reflexly stops urinating. Next, the household awakes, EXCEPT for the deep sleeper who wets the bed. Precisely those children who sleep through the alarm are most likely to be helped by it.

For the alarm to be effective, someone else must wake your son up (the most trying part — I’m sure he’s difficult to awaken), walk him to the bathroom, and get him to finish urinating in the toilet — all before resetting that annoying alarm. If this ritual is continued, the alarm will likely begin to wake him up directly within 4 to 6 weeks. Within twelve weeks, your son will very likely master nighttime bladder control, and no longer need the alarm. Relapses after alarm therapy are uncommon.

I participated in a conference on enuresis where one of the speakers described the use in Africa of frogs strapped to the child as a ‘natural’ alarm. Today’s electronic alarms are more effective, and I dare say, more comfortable (for the frog as well as the child). Many good alarms are available. The technology for bedwetting alarms changes, with new models coming out faster than I can review. I recommend going to a trusted source, that provides reviews from parents, to research the best alarm for your child. When researching consider the following:

  • Rating
  • Number of reviews
  • Features
  • Cost

Two sources to consider when doing your research are the Bedwetting Store and Amazon.com.

Star Charts as Positive Reinforcement

Star charts prove very beneficial to some children, used either alone or with a bedwetting alarm. As you know from experience, you wake up more easily when the day holds promise and excitement. On holiday mornings it is easier to get out of bed; on dreary mornings it is easier to hit the snooze-alarm. Star charts use this to advantage. A child is offered a star on the calendar for each dry night. When the child collects a predetermined number of stars (usually 3-7), he is given a small reward. When he collects 21 in a row, he gets a larger, looked-forward-to, prize. This puts the reticular activating system of the brain in a more heightened state of readiness to wake up when the bladder signals that it is full. For some children, this is enough to make them responsive to nighttime bladder fullness. If no improvement occurs within 2 weeks, however, it should not continue to be used without an alarm or some other therapy.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy and guided imagery are other techniques available to help deep sleepers gain nighttime bladder control. Hypnotherapy requires a trained therapist, but guided imagery can be employed by anyone. Have your son relax, close his eyes, and listen to what you say. Tell him that his kidneys are a pee factory, making urine day and night. His bladder is a storage tank where the pee is kept until he is ready to put it in the toilet. There is a gate or muscle that holds the pee in the bladder until he is ready. During the day, he is in control of the gate, but at night some of the pee has been sneaking out. When he sleeps, he is going to begin taking control. When the bladder starts to fill up, he will control the gate when he is asleep, just like when he is awake. He will pee in the toilet when he is ready. Messages like this help put his brain in a state of readiness to receive the bladder’s signals. As with star charts, this should not be continued as the only therapy for longer than 2 weeks with no noticeable improvement.

Many advantages result from being a deep sleeper. Sound sleep restores and refreshes the body and the mind. (Children who wet the bed do not sleep as soundly after they wet each night as they did before.) The frustration you’ve had of your son’s sleeping through the alarm is not a reason to give up, but a sign that with perseverance he will stay dry and enjoy sound sleep all night long.

Last medical review on: August 22, 2015
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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26 Comments
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Recent Comments

I am a regular reader of your site and love all your articles. Very informative. However, in additionl to the two sites to purchase bedwetting alarms, I also recommend One Stop Bedwetting as possibly the best resource for bedwetting alarms and waterproof bedding. I have personal experience with the products and highly recommend them

I can’t endorse a specific brand of alarms. You can search for One Stop Bedwetting in Google and visit their site. They have alarms for adults as well. Some with plastic mat sensors, others with cloth mat sensors. Should help.
Good luck!

You can try a bedwetting alarm with multiple tones. The number 1 reason a bedwetting alarm stops working is because of what they call auditory accommodation – Child getting used to one sound.
A milti-tone bedwetting alarm is useful there.

Good luck!

Lhr,

You might consider changing brands so there is a different noise. You may have to do this a few times.

Sorry!

@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom

I have used a bedwetting alarm for my 10 year old for 2 months so far. At the beginning we were very positive when we noticed that he was able to wake up on the alarm by himself with minimum spotting, use the toilet and get back to bed. After 3 weeks he woke up dry for 2 weeks, and we were hoping that this will continue progressing.
After those 2 dry weeks, he started going back to spotting, still responding to the alarm. Now that we completed 2 months we are starting to lose hope. No progress is noticed at all! Actually we feel that he is getting used to the sound of alarm and one night he actually stopped the alarm and urinated completely on his bed.
I know that the period that should be given is 3 months but was expecting that during that period we should notice signs of improvement. Should we consider that it is a failure or should we continue?

You can try a bedwetting alarm with multiple tones. The number 1 reason a bedwetting alarm stops working is because of what they call auditory accommodation – Child getting used to one sound.
A milti-tone bedwetting alarm is useful there.

Good luck!

Lhr,

You might consider changing brands so there is a different noise. You may have to do this a few times.

Sorry!

@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom

Hello guys!
I am quite embarrassed but can these alarms be used by adults as well? According to this website [LINK DELETED AS POTENTIAL SPAM] as looking at [BRAND DELETED AS POSSIBLE SPAM] and although it is a more expensive option it seems to be what I need really.

Would appreciate any replies. :)

I can’t endorse a specific brand of alarms. You can search for One Stop Bedwetting in Google and visit their site. They have alarms for adults as well. Some with plastic mat sensors, others with cloth mat sensors. Should help.
Good luck!

The information is really necessary, this is an issue that parents are concerned for their children

Wonderful article. I wasn’t even aware that bedwetting is a problem that can be treated. I read up on the comments and visited https://onestopbedwetting.com
I purchased a Smart bedwetting alarm for my 7 year old boy and am happy to say that after 2 months, my son isn’t wetting the bed anymore. Brilliant product.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

NEHA GUPTA
I am a son of 8 and a half years and every night he is doing bed wetting. We put him to alarm system at night but so many times the alarm doesn’t beep, why is it so. How does the alarm work I don’t get it properly. Can u please help me understand why the alarm don’t beep, or do we need to clean it everyday or after every time at night when it beep and child goes to pee. The alarm is of good quality and we are consulting to a doctor also, but I want your help also.
7/03/2016

Hai I have ten-year old daughter she is still bed wetts every day evening and night time.when she went out in deep sleep. When I try to wake up;she did not get. Pls give me some suggestions to cure this problem. We are not going anywhere for this problem.