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How Do Bedwetting Alarms Work?

March 09, 2020 3 min read

My pediatrician recommended a bedwetting alarm for my 8 year old son who still wets his bed every night.  How does a bedwetting alarm work?  Doesn’t it sound after he is already wet?

Research demonstrates that using a bedwetting alarm is the most effective cure for bedwetting, so your pediatrician’s recommendation is the right one. Right now, your son sleeps through the entire wetting episode. Neither of you know when he is wetting. It’s difficult to change a behavior when you aren’t aware it’s happening. 

When a non-bedwetting child sleeps and pressure builds up in the bladder, a signal is sent to the brain to keep the bladder sphincter muscle closed until they can wake up and walk to the bathroom.  In bedwetting children, this signal is not recognized by their subconscious reflex system.  Instead of waking to go to the bathroom, your son relaxes the sphincter muscle that keeps his bladder closed and wets during his sleep.

A bedwetting alarm senses wetness and sounds an alert.

Both you and your son will know when he’s wetting.  This is the first step to changing his behavior.

He will probably sleep through the loud sound because his brain doesn’t know that it is important.  This is similar to the kids who sleep through the loud sound of a smoke detector, and ultimately respond more quickly to their own parent’s voices.  In the beginning, you should respond to the sound and tell your son what to do next.  He may have completely soaked by this time but that is NORMAL in the beginning.  Every child starts like this.

Over time, a subconscious conditioned response begins to develop. 

The feeling that comes with a full bladder and the alarm sounding at the same time begins to help your son make that important brain-bladder connection.  You will begin to see him stop the flow of urine and have a smaller wet spot on the bed.  He will begin to have urine left to go in the toilet.  This may happen when it appears that he is still sound asleep and you are waking him up. 

Smaller wet spots are PROGRESS, even if he isn’t jumping out of bed on his own.  The alarm does sound after he is already wet, but this is how his body learns to make this association.

Choosing a comfortable and reliable alarm is important

There are cheap, unreliable bedwetting alarms that make frightening noises on Amazon.  Cooperation is key so it’s worth the extra money to get a product that is comfortable, reliable and something your child is very willing to use.  The Rodger wireless alarm, which has the sensor threads sewn right into the underwear, is a good choice.  The wireless, sound-making receiver has 8 sounds to choose from and it is plugged in across the room, requiring your son to get out of bed and turn it off.  You can even get a second receiver for your room so you can be sure to hear it. 

The soft cotton boxer style underwear is so comfortable and easy to wear that you should hear no arguments when it’s time to get ready for bed.  It’s also easy to change into the clean pair after he wets in the night.  No long wires to clumsily reattach to underwear when it's dark and he’s still half asleep, as he would have to do with some of the cheap alarms.  With the Rodger wireless alarm, he simply pulls on the clean pair of underwear and goes back to sleep.

How to judge progress.

Less frequent wetting, getting up more easily and having urine left to pee in the toilet are all signs he is on the right tract.  Then you’ll begin to see a few dry nights, followed by strings of dry nights.

Success takes time. 

On average, it takes 10-12 weeks to go from wetting every night to being dry for two weeks in a row.  The first two weeks are the hardest and it gets easier from there.  He should use the alarm until he is dry every night for two consecutive weeks.  Patience and persistence pay off, though, and he’ll soon be looking forward to dry nights and sleepovers with friends.

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