For some children, bedwetting is part of growing up. For others, it’s a sign of a deeper issue: sleep apnea.
That bedwetting might be more than “just a phase”.
Bedwetting affects just shy of 1 in 5 kids between the ages of 4 and 12, so it’s not uncommon. If your child wets the bed, it isn’t the end of the world.
But while it isn’t time to hit the panic button, it is time to pay closer attention to your child’s behavior, because that bedwetting could be telling you that your child’s long-term health is at the mercy of a real nighttime bogeyman called sleep apnea.
What does sleep apnea have to do with bedwetting?
Let’s start by understanding what sleep apnea (also called sleep-disordered breathing) actually is. When a person has sleep apnea, their breathing is repeatedly disrupted while they’re asleep, preventing them from getting the oxygen it needs.
To the body, that’s a serious situation – and it acts accordingly. It starts to prioritize bodily functions related to breathing, even if that means giving up bladder control. Once that happens…well, it’s a situation that nobody is happy with, to put it gently.
Sleep apnea has serious long-term health effects.
While the disorder can affect anyone, from infants to adults, it has a bigger impact on children because their bodies and minds are still developing.
The Physical Health Impact
The Mental Health Impact
What causes sleep apnea in children?
For children, sleep apnea is often caused by issues in the mouth or sinuses that are preventing proper breathing. If your child is overweight, or your family has a history with the condition, those factors can also increase your child’s likelihood of having sleep apnea as well.
Besides bedwetting, what other signs should I look for?
Regular Night Sweating
When the body is deprived of oxygen, it may release a stress hormone to restart breathing, which can also cause sweating.
Learning or Behavior Issues
Since it disrupts proper rest, sleep apnea can cause your child to be irritable or have trouble focusing at school.
Breathing difficulties can make it challenging for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
The lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea can trigger your child’s fight-or-flight response, causing them to have nightmares.
Mouth Breathing & Bad Breath
Mouth breathing may be directly visible, or noticeable from bad breath caused airflow drying out your child’s mouth.
Recurring ear infections, acid reflux, or colds can indicate that sleep apnea is disrupting your child’s proper body functions.
I think my child has sleep apnea. What should I do?
Talk to a doctor or a dentist. They’ll be able to examine your child and provide you with an at-home polysomnography test – a sleep study, for short – that assesses your child’s nighttime oxygen levels and breathing patterns.