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Night Potty Training: What Doesn't Work

July 10, 2013 2 min read

I am frequently asked by parents if their child should continue to wear pull-on diapers until they are ready to tackle bedwetting with an alarm. They want their child to be well-rested and comfortable but do want them to be motivated to become dry.

The current recommendation is that wearing disposables in children who wet every night does not hinder the child from becoming dry and may help them to get a better night of sleep.

Quality of Sleep

Some recent researchlooked at quality of sleep in bedwetting children who did not wear night diapers (pull-ons) versus those who consistently wore diapers. There was no difference in frequency of wetting in the two groups.

The children wore an actigraph, a miniature wristwatch-like device that continuously recorded their movements during the night. An interesting objective finding was that, as a whole, there was no impaired sleep for children with bedwetting compared to healthy controls without bedwetting, as measured by the actigraph.

Parents perception as reported on the Child Behavior Checklist was different than the actigraphic measurement, however. Parents reported significantly lower sleep quality in bedwetting children in comparison with controls.

When looking at bedwetting children who wore diapers versus bedwetting children who just wore underwear, those without diapers/pull-ons had more activity during sleep and shorter periods of continuous sleep.

The sleep movement of bedwetting children with diapers was the same as children without bedwetting. The researchers mentioned that parents "enuresis coping strategies including waking them up to void or change clothes, may have contributed to increased sleep movement.


Bedwetting children who wear nighttime diapers have sleep patterns that resemble those of non-bedwetting children. These children sleep just as well as their non-wetting peers so parents do not have to worry whether their child is well-rested. Pull-ons may also reduce parental stress because of the laundry burden and children's feeling of shame over having a wet bed.

As children get older and wearing pull-on diapers becomes more embarrassing, using a bedwetting alarm, which is designed to be used with regular cloth underwear, enables them to develop the ability to wake to a full bladder and empty their urine in the bathroom rather than their bed.

This is the perfect time to make the transition from disposable to cloth underwear in children who have never had a dry night. Using waterproof pads on top of the sheet also helps with this transition.

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