A lot of parents of autistic children wonder if there might be some sort of connection between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and bedwetting. Especially since many autistic children have sleep disorders or sleeping issues with falling asleep and staying asleep.

Many children with ASD also experience night terrors, and trouble waking up in the morning or maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Some autistic children even develop sleep apnea.

So, when a child with ASD struggles with nighttime incontinence or has nighttime bowel movements, it only adds to the growing concern that there might be a link between autism and bedwetting.

It seems clear, that we need to further explore the relationship between autism spectrum disorder and any possible links with bedwetting, and other nighttime sleep disorders. Along the way, we’ll need to explore the benefits of proper sleep hygiene, and factors that contribute to nocturnal enuresis, as well as what you can do to help your autistic child cope with occasional bedwetting problems.

The Connection Between Bedwetting & Autism Spectrum Disorder

In truth, a lot of children with ASD have some type of incontinence issues at some point or another. This can include things like potty training difficulties, sleep disorders, involuntary bowel movements, and even underlying medical conditions such as an increased risk of urinary tract infections.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a lot of children with ASD can have other reasons behind their nocturnal enuresis. This includes medical conditions that lead to involuntary urination at night while sleeping, beyond the age that a healthy person should be able to control their own bladder.

Other Factors That Can Contribute to Bedwetting Problems

Several factors can increase a child’s chances of developing a bedwetting problem as they grow. This includes external factors, as well as medical conditions and biological issues such as:

  • Chronic or recurring anxiety
  • Feelings of anxiousness right before going to bed
  • Past potty training difficulties
  • Recurring challenges with daytime bladder control
  • Underlying psychological disorders that affect bodily function
  • Physical medical conditions, such as a urinary tract infection
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep apnea
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Difficulty controlling their bladder
  • Recurring night terrors
  • Struggling to fall asleep and staying asleep
  • The child is naturally a deep sleeper
  • The child uses gentle sleep aids to help them fall asleep
  • The child consumes caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime

With so many possible factors, it’s easy to see how there could be a connection between a child with ASD and nocturnal enuresis, AKA “Bed Wetting.” Yet not all children with autism have problems wetting the bed.

So, it seems clear that there must be other factors that need to be considered before we can draw a direct link between autism spectrum disorder and bedwetting problems. Though it’s always wise to talk to your child’s doctor anytime you notice a possible change in their physical or mental health. With a few simple tests, your child’s pediatrician can determine if there is an underlying medical condition such as a urinary tract infection, which could be causing the nocturnal enuresis.

How Daytime Habits Might Affect Nighttime Bedwetting

Any child who develops a bedwetting problem might also have some daytime habits that could be contributing to the problem. This includes stress and anxiety during the day as well as a recent change in their established routine schedule.

Many times when a child struggles to fall asleep, or they either experience restless sleep due to poor sleep hygiene it can increase the chances of nighttime bedwetting. The same is true for a child who sleeps deeply or is taking medication to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.

The child might not even realize they need to use the bathroom until after they have wet the bed and have the uncomfortable feeling of wet underwear.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many young children who have a major growth spurt often develop some short-term bedwetting problems due to rapid physical changes. This is something worth discussing with your child’s pediatrician.

How To Help Your Autistic Child Have a Dry Bed

There are several things you might try to help your autistic child get a good night’s sleep, and still wake with a dry bed. This starts with common sense sleep hygiene as well as ruling out potential medical factors.

Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene will help your child fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as helping to balance their brain chemistry. This is a multi-faceted approach that starts with reducing screen time before bed. You should also implement a good bedtime routine, with a visual chart if necessary.
Make sure to provide them with a comfortable sleeping area. You might want to also consider giving them a weighted blanket or other nighttime comfort item.

Use a Mattress Pad

A high-quality mattress pad with a mattress protector on the child’s bed can also keep bedwetting incidents from fouling the child’s mattress. You might want to also incorporate a bedwetting alarm that helps to alert you and your child when a bedtime accident happens.

Limit Fluids Before Bed

Limiting fluids within an hour or two of bedtime might also help your autistic child get through the night with a dry bed. You especially want to restrict beverages that have any traces of stimulants like caffeine.

Consider Eliminating Sleep Aids

If your child sleeps deeply or is taking sleep aids under the supervision of their pediatrician, you might want to consult with their doctor to see if you should stop. Some children who use sleep aids can sleep so deeply that they don’t notice they need to use the bathroom until their body releases while sleeping.

Rule Out Medical Concerns

If your autistic child has recently started bedwetting, and you can’t immediately see an external reason, you might want to bring them to the doctor. A few simple tests can help determine if there is an underlying medical reason why they have started bedwetting, such as a previously undiagnosed urinary tract infection.