BY DR. JACOB SAGIE
Breaking the habit before summer camp begins
Imagine you’re a ten-year-old child about to spend your first year at summer camp, filled with all the excitement that comes with that coming-of-age experience. Now imagine you’re that same child, but with the intense fear that your “secret” of regular bed-wetting will be exposed to your bunkmates. Or even worse, you are the sixteen-year-old troop leader getting ready for an overnight trip, and all you can do to avoid letting your scouts know about your bed-wetting problem is to ‘accidentally’ spill water on your sleeping bag in the morning to hide your embarrassment.
This fear and anxiety of leaving the safety of home is one that hundreds of thousands of potential campers are facing this very moment while summer plans are being decided upon.
Despite it being one of the most prevalent childhood conditions, affecting close to 8 million children between the ages of 5–17 in the U.S. alone, bedwetting is rarely properly diagnosed and treated. The result is parents and children being told there’s little to be done, or “you’ll grow out of it eventually.”
That doesn’t need to be the case, if we begin to better understand the nature of childhood bedwetting and how with relative ease it can be treated with enough time to be ‘summer ready’.
Bed-wetting—with the exception of about 1% of cases where there is a physiological problem—is what we describe as a learning fault and stems from deep sleep. We simply need to train our brains to recognize the signal that comes from a full bladder. We need to either wake up to go to the bathroom or contract the sphincter muscles to retain the release of the urine until you wake up in the morning.
Achieving this learned technique is essentially an issue of behavioral therapy whereby external stimuli, like an alarm, is activated when we wet our beds, and over time, the brain is trained to respond without that stimuli.
Through my years of research and treating over 30,000 bed wetters, we have discovered that the combination of this type of stimuli coupled TOGETHER with behavioral therapy and a few key exercises that can be done at home, can increase the likelihood of dryness by 90%!
By starting a treatment program a few months before the start of summer season, you can successfully eliminate the issue all together instead of having to cover it up.
If you find yourselves unprepared for summer or an overnight sleepover, there are a few techniques that parents can implement to try and alleviate the stress involved. Doctors can prescribe a commonly used drug, DDAVP (Minirin), which works to reduce urine production during sleep and reduces the chance of bed-wetting frequency. As with every drug, there can be side effects and it might not work for every patient. Also, the condition can recur when you stop taking it, but this is a solution that many summer camps are familiar with.
Another option is using pull-ups to avoid wet sheets and smelly beds. While I am usually quick to dismiss this recommendation, since it doesn’t give the child an incentive to succeed in being dry on their own, for the occasional bed wetter in can prove helpful. It will not prevent bedwetting, but it can conceal it from the attention of others.
I personally know how frustrating it is to see a child wetting the bed night after night. I was that parent some thirty-five years ago, and it was that experience that helped me choose to specialize in psychophysiology of enuresis (bed-wetting) and dedicate my career to helping people overcome this fixable condition.
I also know the feeling of watching a child work to overcome bed-wetting and the immense pride and confidence it can instill in them.
By taking the basic steps towards recognizing the realities of the condition, and with a few months of planning ahead, summertime will again become what it’s intended to be—carefree overnights and slumber parties with friends.
Dr. Jacob Sagie has been treating bedwetting for over thirty years in clinics around the world and is the creator of THERAPEE, an interactive web-based program for treating bedwetting. More information can be found at www.bedwettingtherapy.com.