Bed wetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is a phase that many children experience as they grow. There are cases, however, where a child continues to wet the bed well after they are day-time potty trained. This is typically not a willful act by the child, but one that is involuntary. And it is not just a young child problem – some children continue to wet the bed well into their teens.
To understand why this happens, we start with the phrenic reflex. When an infant sleeps, respiration gradually slows down until carbon dioxide in the body gets high enough to trigger a breathing mechanism called the phrenic reflex. This stimulates the diaphragm (breathing muscle) to increased activity and the normal rhythm of breathing returns. If this reflex is not working correctly, carbon dioxide continues to increase causing “smooth” muscles to relax.
Smooth muscles are the involuntary muscles of the body. They function without our control. The valve at the bottom of the bladder is a smooth muscle. When that muscle relaxes, the bladder does not retain fluid.
This is normal for infants because the phrenic reflex is not fully developed at birth. As a child grows, the phrenic reflex matures, leading to the ability to sleep through the night without incident. In some children this reflex is just slow to develop. This can sometimes be a hereditary trait. More often, however, it is due to a spinal misalignment (subluxation).
The phrenic nerves come out from between the 3rd, 4th and 5th cervical (neck) vertebra. The misalignment of these vertebrae can cause nerve interference. When there is interference, the nerves and the functions they control (in this case, the phrenic reflex) are not operating at their full potential. By removing the interference, nerve function is restored and function typically improves. If nerve function is restored, the phrenic reflex should begin to function better and bed wetting should cease.
The only way to know for sure if bed wetting is caused by a subluxation is to speak with a chiropractor. The only way to know if chiropractic can help is to try it.