Are sleep apnea and bedwetting related?

There have been many studies that link sleep apnea and bedwetting. Whether or not sleep apnea is actually a contributor to your child’s bedwetting will take a study by your doctor. If a bedwetting alarm isn’t working, you might consider looking at sleep apnea.

What are the links between sleep apnea and bedwetting?

Apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a pause in respiration while sleeping. Most of the time, people who suffer from sleep apnea tend to snore very loudly. They suddenly stop breathing and later gasp for air. Oftentimes this will wake them up, but some sleep right through it. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when the airway becomes blocked. This results in snorting or gasping when they breathe again.

How does this present itself in children?

Sleep apnea is generally thought of to occur in adults due to soft tissue relaxing in the throat during sleep. For years it was common for kids to have their tonsils out at a younger age. These days this has become rarer and rarer. If tonsils are too big, they may block the airway when the child is reclined or in bed.

If a child is suffering from sleep apnea, they are not getting the type of deep sleep they need to recharge their bodies. Even though they may sleep 10 hours a night, they may complain of being tired during the day. They may also fall asleep in school. Being in a bad mood is another symptom of not getting a good night’s sleep. Sometimes the opposite occurs, and the child is hyperactive during the day and then crashes again at night.

What About Surgery

Taking out a child’s tonsils through surgery has been demonstrated to reduce bedwetting over the years.  Because the obstruction is gone, the child can reach the different stages necessary to get a good night’s sleep. If a child doesn’t get enough sleep during the night, the next night, they may be exhausted and sleep too sound for their body to recognize their bladder is full, resulting in bedwetting.

While sleep apnea is not a cause of bedwetting in every child, it is something to be looked at when determining the right treatment for your child’s nocturnal enuresis or bedwetting.  Your doctor can do tests to determine the number of breathing interruptions at night. If tonsils are not the cause, you may be referred to a sleep disorder specialist who can advise you of further treatment options.

Sleep apnea and bedwetting may be closely related for your child, so be sure to discuss any other sleep disorders with your child’s doctor. A bedwetting alarm usually is not beneficial for a child if they have apnea due to other electronics on a CPAP machine.