What are the causes of bed wetting in adults?

Updated February 21, 2017

Bed-wetting is embarrassing for children, but it can be devastating for adults. There are several medications and medical conditions which can cause an adult who has never wet the bed to suddenly start wetting the bed. Fortunately, there are aids and treatments that can minimise the incidence and impact of bed wetting in adults.

Bladder Infection

Bladder infections can cause an urgent need to urinate that can lead to bed wetting in adults. Sometimes, an elderly person with a bladder infection will wake up when he has the urge to urinate but will involuntarily empty his bladder before he has a chance to get out of bed.

Weakened Muscles

The muscles that control the flow of urine out of the urethra can be weakened by age, illness or because of bed rest following surgery. Adults with weakened control of these muscles may leak urine while they are sleeping or be unable to stop the flow of urine when their bladders are full.

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer can mimic the symptoms of a bladder infection, making it difficult to hold urine in the bladder during the night. The bladder may spasm during sleep, causing urine to leak or creating an urgent need to urinate as soon as a person is awake.

Medications and Illnesses

Some medications can cause a deep sleep that doesn't enable a person to wake when the urge to urinate occurs. This can lead to bed wetting by adults. Certain illnesses, such as diabetes, that cause an increased need to urinate can also lead to bed wetting by adults.

Mental Health

Alzheimer's disease, which normally affects the elderly, can make a person unable to recognise that she needs to urinate. Other mental health conditions, such as depression or fear, can lead to bed wetting in adults.


Some people are genetically predisposed to being unable to awaken when the urge to urinate happens during sleep. They will have started bed wetting as a child and continue bed wetting into adulthood.

Increased Bladder Pressure

Certain conditions, such as pregnancy, an enlarged prostate or obesity, can increase pressure on the bladder, making it difficult for adults to maintain continence while they sleep.

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About the Author

Sophie Stillwell has been writing professionally since 1992. She is published in "The Gorham Times" newspaper, "Private Colleges & Universities" magazine, on eHow and in several other publications. She has experience working as a paralegal, antiques dealer and neurobehavioral coach. Her writing topics frequently include frugal living, pets and health. Stillwell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Southern Maine.