Potty Training And Sleep

22006996_sWhen you start potty training, you may not think about how it will impact your child’s sleep.  Sometimes it does not have much of an impact, but sometimes it does.  It is better to be prepared for the worse and hope for the best.  If you are just starting potty training, I recommend leaving a diaper or pullup on your child at night until you are sure they are consistently waking up dry.  While some people say you should change to underwear and never go back, I believe you can differentiate day from night.

Something to keep in mind while potty training is that there are biological issues involved in being able to stay dry at night.  The age at which a child is biologically able to stay dry at night varies.   In order to stay dry at night, the child’s bladder needs to be big enough to hold urine all night, the nerves that control the bladder must be mature enough to signal the brain to wake up if the bladder is full, and the child has to be making enough of the hormone that slows urine production at night.  So wearing a pullup or diaper to bed is perfectly normal.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bed-wetting/DS00611/DSECTION=causes

Some sleep issues to prepare for while potty training are:

Stalling at bedtime

If your child is starting to stall at bedtime because they say they have to go potty and are just sitting there and sitting there, you need to take control and give them a time limit.  Popular ways to limit the time are to set a timer for whatever you feel is a reasonable amount of time or read a limited amount of books to them.   Whatever you do, when time is up, they need to go to bed.  If they normally go to bed without mentioning the potty and come out immediately to go potty, try taking them right before they go to bed and reminding them that this will be the last time they get to sit on the potty.

Waking in the middle of the night to go potty

If your child wakes up and wants you to help them go potty, keep the lights low and do it quickly and calmly.  This is something you will probably need to get used to doing, until your child can wake up on their own during the night and go to the bathroom and take care of everything themselves.  If your child is young and potty training, this is probably not something you really want them doing.  During the day, encourage them to do as much on their own as they can – have them wipe themselves (and then you can afterwards!), have them pull up their own clothes.  Also get them in the habit of dressing themselves.  You could also do a “dream pee”.  Right before you go to bed, wake your child and take them to the bathroom.

Waking in the middle of the night wanting to be changed

If your child is still in a pullup or diaper and they wet it during the night, they may wake up to be changed.  Change them as quickly and calmly as you can, keeping lights low and electronics off.  If your child is in a pullup, they may be able to do much of the changing process by themselves, but it is better to practice this in the daytime first, then start working on it at night.  Of course you still want to let them know if they need you, they can come get you, but if they are mostly waking to be with you, they may stop this.  And if they are not in a diaper or pullup and have an accident, then they will definitely need your help.  Make sure you have a waterproof mattress pad on the bed so it will not soak through – if your child often has accidents, you may want to put 2 sets of everything on their bed so it is easier on you to change during the night.


Do you have questions or comments?  Has potty training impacted your child’s sleep?  Feel free to post below!


by Michelle Winters
SleepWell Sleep Solutions


20 Thoughts on “Potty Training And Sleep

  1. Having raised 4 kids, I can say potty training requires patience but it’s doable.

  2. Having raised four children, I can say that potty training can take quite a while and parents have to be patient for their kids while they get used to getting up to pee by themselves in the night. You may find you have to wake them at times but take it in your strides, they’re soon going to master the process.

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  4. I don’t have children yet, but I sure know where to go to get all the information I need! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Well, this sure does make me grateful for full night’s sleep. Much of this is ancient history for me, but your advice seems pretty accurate.

  8. Oh lordy, I’m so glad I’m past these days 🙂 Great advice Michelle, I remember doing the first two. Actually we many times, did the potty at night with the lights off. There was usually enough ambient light from the window.

    • sleepwell on December 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm said:

      I think all bathrooms should have dimmer switches in them!! That is one of my issues too with using bath time as part of the bedtime routine, it is usually so bright in bathrooms and it is better to have the lights dimmed about an hour before you go to sleep.

  9. Mine is 21, so we are well beyond this. That said, I don’t remember him having particular problems at night. He was finally trained a bit late, I guess, at almost 4, but once he had it, he had it. Well, except when there was something he was too busy doing. 🙂 But that wasn’t a night-time problem.

  10. Whew. Luckily mine is well past this stage, but these are some great tips that I’ll be sure to pass on to some of my friends and colleagues who still have children of the right age. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Thanks! I was IMPRESSED TOO! It took one night before he started waking on his own. He will call out for me and when I come in he says potty! I’m overjoyed that he is doing this, but I was expecting the worst LOL. We stop liquids at dinner, nothing after we eat. The downside is dinner isn’t until 6:30 some nights. I will wait until the new year to really work on his sleep again. He is napping longer and staying dry during those too! I haven’t worried about the longer naps either. It’s funny our night time potty training has been WAY easier than the daytime for us. It’s weird but I will take it. 🙂

  12. We made the switch all at once no diapers at all. It has been 2 weeks and little man just turned 2. We have more dry than wet nights (only 4 accidents since we started at night). He was ready, because he is doing a lot of it himself. We for now have his potty on a chuck pad in his room. That way nights don’t involve going too far. He won’t dream pee. He has to be fully awake to pee in the middle of the night. It takes him about 10 minutes to wake fully up and then pee. He then lays right back down and goes back to sleep. I am worried about the waking for 30 min in the middle of the night is disrupting his sleep pattern. I know it will get easier as we go along and he gets more used to going pee in the middle of the night. He can hold it for 7-8 hours at night. He then wakes up to pee. My question is how do you help make sure they get enough sleep still. He is going down later (which I don’t like) because he is peeing at 7:45pm. He is sleeping from 8-5/6 right now. This morning I was able to get him to go back to sleep after he peed at 5, but how do you help with ensuring they get enough sleep? Should I wait a little bit longer so that the potty usage at night is going well?

    • sleepwell on December 4, 2013 at 11:08 am said:

      Hi Mary – you may want to stop liquids a little earlier in the evening so maybe that 7:45 bathroom break will be a little earlier. Other than that, I would give it a little more time before making any changes. Hopefully he will start waking a little later on his own, or going to the bathroom earlier and getting to bed earlier again, or holding it longer at night. He is young, and I am very impressed that he is waking to go to the bathroom! If his naps become a little longer, it may be okay for now too since he may be catching up on some of the sleep he’s missing at night.

      – Michelle

  13. Oh my….A distant memory that I’m having a very difficult time recalling what methods were employed with my now 19 yo son.

    I seem to recall a rather quick transition with no pull-ups even being part of the process. However, I know there were many a night that bed-stripping was part of the process, so I can see the value of 2 sets of everything…Might even go so far as to say: Mattress cover, one set, and another mattress cover with the second set over the first.

    Phew….sooo glad I’m well beyond that phase of parenting!

    Great information!

    • sleepwell on December 4, 2013 at 11:09 am said:

      Thanks Brian! I am glad I am past this stage as well, although with a 6 and 8 year old, the memory is not as distant as yours!

      – Michelle

  14. I didn’t even know people do it all at once. We have dry days and wet nights, and it has been like that for a while. I’ve been wondering when to start on the nights, but the wet diapers in the morning indicate there’s no hurry. Also my own lack of sleep says I may want to wait a bit longer.

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