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The Connection Between Bedwetting and Sleep Apnea

The Connection Between Bedwetting and Sleep Apnea

Thursday, November 09, 2023

When children struggle with bedwetting, it is frustrating and concerning for parents. While it is often seen as a normal part of childhood development, it can also be a sign of an underlying health issue.

One such condition that has been found to have a connection with bedwetting is sleep apnea. In this article, we will explore the relationship between bedwetting and sleep apnea, shedding light on how these two issues are intertwined. By understanding this connection, parents can take appropriate steps to address their children's health and improve their quality of life.


Defining Tongue Thrust, Sleep Apnea, And Bedwetting

1. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes, leading to disrupted sleep patterns and inadequate oxygen supply. Sleep apnea not only affects the quality of sleep, but also has various health implications.

There are two primary types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: OSA is the more common form involving the throat muscles relaxing and blocking the airway. Symptoms often include excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking.
  • Central sleep apnea: CSA occurs when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Symptoms are the same as for obstructive sleep apnea, however because of the improper brain signals, you will not awaken by gasping or choking. This is what makes CSA so dangerous. Central sleep apnea should be treated with a CPAP machine for that reason.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a number of health complications, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, and metabolic syndrome.

2. Bedwetting

Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is the involuntary release of urine during sleep. It is common in children, especially those under the age of seven, and is typically seen as part of the normal toilet training process.

However, if bedwetting persists beyond this age or suddenly starts happening in an older child who has been dry at night for a long period, it may be a sign of other medical or emotional issues.

Bedwetting can be broadly categorized into two types:

  • Primary Bedwetting: This is when a child has never had a prolonged period of being dry at night. It's often the result of a mismatch between bladder capacity and urine production rate.
  • Secondary Bedwetting: This occurs when a child or adult starts bedwetting again after having been dry at night for a significant period. This can often be linked to various factors, including medical conditions, stress, or emotional issues.

While often embarrassing for children, it's important to remember that bedwetting is not the child's fault. It doesn't occur because of laziness or disobedience. With understanding, patience, and the appropriate interventions, it can be managed effectively.

3. Tongue Thrust

Tongue thrust refers to the incorrect swallowing pattern in which the tongue pushes against or between the teeth during swallowing or even at rest. Most tongue thrusters are habitual mouth breathers who do not breathe through their nose as they should.

Mouth breathing leads to a series of issues that can affect both physical and oral health. As air enters through the mouth instead of the nose, it bypasses important filtration systems that remove allergens and bacteria. This increases the risk of respiratory infections and allergies. Additionally, mouth breathing can lead to dry mouth, contributing to tooth decay and bad breath.

The Link Between Tongue Thrust, Snoring, Sleep Apnea, And Bedwetting

It is crucial to address tongue thrust early on because prolonged mouth breathing may result in snoring - a common symptom of sleep-disordered breathing.

Snoring occurs due to the partial obstruction of airflow caused by relaxed throat tissues vibrating during sleep. While occasional snoring may not be cause for concern, persistent snoring can progress into something more serious - sleep apnea.

The Impact Of Sleep Apnea On Bedwetting

Recent studies have found a significant correlation between sleep apnea and bedwetting in children. When children with sleep apnea experience an obstructed airway during sleep, they may briefly wake up or shift into lighter stages of sleep to resume normal breathing patterns.

These disruptions can trigger bedwetting episodes as their bodies struggle to maintain control over bladder function during these awakenings.

Furthermore, the fragmented and poor-quality sleep caused by sleep apnea can lead to increased production of urine at night, further exacerbating bedwetting issues. This combination of interrupted sleep, impaired bladder control, and increased urine production creates a cycle that perpetuates bedwetting in children with undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea.

Identifying Bedwetting As A Possible Indicator

As parents, it is crucial to recognize bedwetting as a potential indicator of underlying health issues such as sleep apnea. While occasional bedwetting incidents are common during potty training, persistent nighttime wetting beyond the age of 5-6 years should be taken seriously.

If your child experiences frequent bedwetting along with other symptoms like snoring, daytime fatigue, irritability, or difficulty concentrating, it may be time to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Seeking Treatment: Correcting Tongue Thrust And Addressing Sleep Apnea

If you suspect that your child's bedwetting is linked to tongue thrust or sleep apnea, there are steps you can take to address these issues effectively. Here are some strategies that can help:

1) Correcting Tongue Thrust

Identifying and correcting tongue thrust early on is crucial in preventing the development of sleep apnea. Working with a speech-language pathologist or an orofacial myologist can help your child learn correct swallowing techniques and establish proper nasal breathing habits.

These professionals can guide your child through exercises and therapies that retrain the tongue muscles, leading to improved oral and respiratory function.

IJustWantTo® Correct My Tongue Thrust is a step-by-step program designed by Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, that leads you through tongue exercises explained in written words and videos to correct your tongue thrust in only SEVEN WEEKS.

2) Consulting A Sleep Specialist

If you suspect that sleep apnea may be contributing to your child's bedwetting issues, it is essential to consult a sleep specialist. They can conduct a thorough evaluation, which may involve an overnight sleep study (polysomnography) to diagnose any underlying sleep disorders.

Based on the diagnosis, they will recommend appropriate treatment options, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances, or lifestyle modifications.

3) Implementing Healthy Sleep Habits

Establishing consistent bedtime routines and promoting healthy sleep practices can contribute to better overall sleep quality for your child. Ensure they have a comfortable sleeping environment that is conducive to quality rest, including a cool and dark room free from distractions like electronics.

Encourage regular exercise during the day to promote tiredness at night and limit caffeine intake in the evening hours.

4) Monitoring Fluid Intake

To manage bedwetting episodes caused by increased urine production during disrupted sleep, it may be helpful to monitor your child's fluid intake throughout the day. Encourage them to drink more fluids earlier in the day and reduce intake closer to bedtime. This practice can help minimize nighttime urine production and improve control over bladder function.

5) Promoting Open Communication And Emotional Support

Bedwetting can take an emotional toll on both children and parents. It is crucial to approach this issue with empathy, understanding, and open communication. 

Reassure your child that bedwetting is not their fault while emphasizing the importance of working together as a team towards finding solutions. Celebrate small victories and offer emotional support throughout the process.

Fix Mouth-Breathing By Correcting Tongue Thrust

By addressing tongue thrust, identifying sleep apnea, and implementing appropriate interventions, parents can help their children overcome bedwetting issues and improve their overall well-being. Remember, early detection and intervention are key to preventing potential long-term consequences of untreated sleep apnea.

If you are looking for a comprehensive program to correct tongue thrust and address related concerns, consider our seven-week program: IJustWantTo Correct My Tongue Thrust. Take the first step towards improving your child's health and quality of life.

Janet M. Bennett

Written by:

Janet Bennett, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is a Speech Pathologist in private practice in Asheville, NC, since 1977. She specializes in treating tongue thrust, a swallowing disorder that can result in buckteeth, an open bite, a lisp, snoring, and other problems that have not yet been made known to most people.