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Help, my son sleeps through the bedwetting alarm

My 7 year old son is a very deep sleeper and for the first 3 nights of using the alarm he has slept through the sound. It is very loud and we can hear it. What should we do?

Firstly, this is very common when beginning to use a bedwetting alarm. Many bedwetters are deep-sleepers.  At first, your child’s brain isn’t familiar with the alarm sound and doesn’t realise that an important response is required.

Our children are also conditioned to allow their parents or caregivers to deal with loud or unusual noises during the night. Interestingly, research conducted by manufacturers of smoke alarms also reflects this phenomenon. The research discovered, many children sleep through the extremely loud sound of a smoke alarm and it’s not until their parents go to their room and say their name that they actually wake up.

At the start, the alarm is for the parents or caregivers. Initially you will need to respond to the sound by going to your son's room, waking him and helping him turn off the alarm and walk to the bathroom. By doing this every time the alarm sounds, over time his body will begin to relate the alarm sound with a full bladder and the need to walk to the toilet and release his bladder.

Within a few weeks, you should see him waking to the alarm, sitting on his bed or trying to turn off the alarm. You will also begin to see smaller wet patches in his bed with more urine left to empty in the toilet when he reaches the bathroom.

It is important that you can hear the alarm. If your room is far away, using a baby monitor or getting a second base unit for your room is a good option. Another option is to share his room for a short time.

Some children need to urinate once a night, others more often and the need to urinate can occur any time in your son's sleep cycle. When in deep REM sleep and in the first few hours of falling asleep, children can frequently be disoriented, crying or saying funny things. At first you’ll need to lead him gently in the direction of the toilet and give him instructions. He most likely will not remember any of this in the morning. Do not be discouraged by this. He will still make progress even without a clear memory of the night before.

As your child learns to respond to the alarm sound on his own, your role will be less significant. You can listen from your room and make sure he is getting to the toilet. If you don't hear him responding, remind him what to do.

Make sure he does not turn off the alarm and go back to sleep without walking to the toilet as this will delay his progress.

A good guide is to have your child wear the alarm until he has 2 successive weeks of dry nights, then every other night until he has 2 more weeks of dryness. The average child takes around 10-12 weeks to achieve this. As long as he is making progress, continue to use the alarm.

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