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How Does a Bedwetting Alarm Work?

April 11, 2024 4 min read

My pediatrician recommended a bedwetting alarm for my 8-year-old daughter who still wears disposable pants and wakes up wet every morning. How does a bedwetting alarm work?   Is it different than setting an alarm clock every night?

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 daughter sleeps through the entire wetting episode. She has no idea when she is wetting.  You also have no idea when she is wetting.  It’s difficult to change a behavior when you aren’t aware when it’s happening. 

Wetting During Sleep

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 daughter relaxes the sphincter muscle that keeps her bladder closed and wets during her sleep.

Alarm Senses Wetting

A bedwetting alarm has a moisture sensor, which sounds an alarm when the first drop of urine is detected.  Once it senses wetness, it sounds an alert so both you and your daughter know when she’s wetting.  This is the first step to changing a behavior.

She will probably sleep through the loud sound because her 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 daughter what to do next.  She may have completely soaked by this time but that is NORMAL in the beginning.  Every child starts like this.

Different Than Setting an Alarm Clock

Since wetting can happen at any time in the sleep cycle, it is impossible to know what time to set the alarm clock to sound.  The alarm could go off way too early or way too late.  Having your daughter wake up at this arbitrary time does nothing to help her make that brain-bladder connection.

Conditioned Response

Over time, a subconscious conditioned response to the moisture-sensing bedwetting alarm sound begins to develop.  The feeling that comes with a full bladder and the alarm sounding at the same time begins to help your daughter make that important brain-bladder connection.  You will begin to see her stop the flow of urine and have a smaller wet spot on the bed.  She will begin to have urine left to go in the toilet.  This may happen when it appears that she is still sound asleep, and you are waking her up.

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

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

Choose a good bedwetting alarm

Choosing the right 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 tiny sensor built right into the underwear, is a good choice.  There are 8 sounds to choose from and it sounds from across the room, requiring your daughter 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 she wets in the night.  No long wires to clumsily reattach to underwear when its dark and she’s still half asleep, as she would have to do with some of the cheap alarms.  With the Rodger wireless alarm, she simply pulls on the clean pair of underwear and goes back to sleep.

How Long for Success

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.  She should use the alarm until she is dry every night for two consecutive weeks.  Patience and persistence pay off, though, and she’ll soon be looking forward to dry nights and sleepovers with friends.



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