Our next Pis'Talk is approaching and enuresis seems a particularly appropriate topic to deal with in preparation for the event. Indeed, Julia van Zanten will present her design of washable underwear and explain why this could be a viable solution to ease the distress caused by incontinence in elderly people. However, incontinence is not only a nasty problem for mundane life, but it can also affect people's nights. We have all gone through it: bed wetting. But for some kids and their parents as well as for 1 out of 100 adults this is a serious issue that requires an effective solution.
When nocturnal enuresis is not provoked by physical dysfunctions, psychological approaches are used to get rid of it. There are some traditional grandma's home remedies, such as:
- don't drink before going to sleep;
- make sure you go to the toilet before going to bed by applying cold water on the womb to stimulate the bladder;
- listen to the noise of running water so that you will take a leak and then sleep through until the following morning.
The last two solutions can be regarded as a form of classical conditioning, that is using a given stimulus repeatedly in order to provoke an immediate reaction to it. The name that is usually associated to the idea of conditioned behaviour is that of Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist who used stimuli (ringing a bell before serving food) to produce salivation in dogs even when food was not actually served.
In the XXI century, a more technological form of Pavlovian training to solve children's nocturnal enuresis can be provided by "noisy" underwear.
As a matter of fact, the company Urifoon has equipped pieces of underwear with sensors. The latter react when they get wet and cause a wireless alarm to emit a bothering sound, so that the child wakes up. On the long term, the person wearing it is supposed to associate the act of bed wetting with an annoying consequence (waking up) and he/she is expected to learn to hold pee in during the night to avoid waking up. Yet, technology doesn't work alone and the human factor is essential. In case of children, it is important to support them without getting angry at them and to prevent the siblings from making fun of them. At the same time, kids should also become more independent by changing underwear and bedsheets alone. But let's not forget that adults need understanding too.
Besides correcting the behaviour, it is also crucial to determine its cause and see whether the person suffers of any kind of discomfort. Having dry, clean bedsheets is good, but having a healthy, happy life is surely essential. Whereas hereditary conditions, obesity, constipation or an hyperactive bladder may cause primary enuresis, the birth of a sibling, the beginning of school life, conflicts between parents or stress can be events at the basis of secondary enuresis, which can and should be solved with the help of a doctor.