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How to Stop Having Embarrassing Bathroom Dreams

Have you ever wet the bed? This is embarrassing enough at age 5 or 6, when a child is striving to be taken seriously as one of the “big kids.” It can be mortifying as an adult. We heard from one reader who has embarrassing bathroom dreams that lead him to wet the bed. He is not alone!

Dreaming of Urinating:

Q. I am a 67-year-old male. For years now I’ve had to get up two or three times a night to go to the bathroom.

My problem is that I dream that I am urinating (probably when my bladder is full) and the relief feels so good. Over the past few years I have actually wet the bed a few times during this dream.

Once I was staying with relatives, and that was extremely embarrassing. I now use Depends when I go visiting. I have no problem holding my urine when awake. Do you know of any way that I could stop having those embarrassing bathroom dreams?

A. You are not the only one who has had similar dreams, with the consequence of urine release. There may be some medications that could help, but we would be reluctant to recommend any of them for extended use.

Will Amitriptyline Help?

One possible approach would be for your doctor to prescribe an old antidepressant, amitriptyline. It has anticholinergic properties that might make you less likely to urinate spontaneously in your sleep. More to the point, however, it reduces dreaming (Sleep, May 1, 2014).

A case study was published many decades ago of a 35-year-old engineer who wet the bed five nights out of seven, on average, and had done so since early childhood (Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, May, 1974). He solved his problem through a combination of psychotherapy, amitriptyline and a bed alarm system.

Beware Anticholinergic Side Effects:

We worry about medications such as amitriptyline, however, as their anticholinergic effects can contribute to problems with memory and cognition. Morning-after drowsiness can also be a problem.

Perhaps an experiment with a bed alarm would be helpful. Your current coping strategy, Depends, offers a solution free of side effects.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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