Wednesday, February 6, 2013


There are probably a ton of helpful books on potty training kids. I’m just assuming this, because I haven’t read any of them. My wife may have read some of them, but I have a more wild west, seat-of-my-pants parenting style where I don’t seek out too much expert advice. It makes it more interesting that way.

Without having read or even seen any of the potty training manuals out there, I can assure you that not one of them has ever offered any helpful advice on sleep-peeing. Now, I’m not talking about peeing in the bed while sleeping. That can be handled with rubber sheets, some wipes, dry jammies, and a washing machine. I’m talking about the dreaded combination of sleepwalking and peeing.

Son Number One is the only one of our three boys that sleep-pees, but believe me, one is enough. My wife and I first noticed this unbecoming behavior a few years ago when he was six. After bedtime, we were downstairs and heard the very familiar – especially to guys – pee hitting the ground noise. I went to investigate and found Son Number One standing at the top of the stairs, adjusting his pajama pants. I asked him what he was doing, and he didn’t answer me. He just turned and walked back into his bedroom. Puzzled, I walked up the stairs and stepped in a puddle on the third stair from the top. This was our first experience with sleep-peeing, so we were a little skeptical and confused, but all the evidence pointed to the fact that our son had just gotten out of bed and peed down the stairs. When I went into their room to question him, he was under the covers, snoring.

Any doubts my wife and I may have had about what actually happened that night were answered a few weeks later when I heard the same noise while I was upstairs, and came out into the hallway to investigate. This time, he hadn’t even made it out of the room. He had simply opened the door, and was standing in the doorway, peeing into the hall. I walked over to him, straddled my legs wide and bent down to his eye level, six inches from his face, and asked, “Whatcha doin’ buddy?” while he peed onto the carpet between my legs. He never said a word. He just stared at me blankly, finished up, shook it off, tucked it back into his jammies, and got back in bed. Totally sleepwalking. Totally peeing on the carpet.

Over the last few years, since we have become aware of the issue, we have decided that Son Number One probably never actually fully wakes up to go pee, but he gets to the toilet 95% of the time, since the bathroom is right next to his bedroom, and he’s on familiar turf. Out the door, two right turns, through the door, toilet is on the right at the end of the bathroom by the tub. Whether or not he empties his bladder entirely into the toilet is another matter.

For a little while prior to this revelation about our son’s strange nighttime urination choices, I had suspected their toilet needed repairs. I kept finding puddles of what could only be pee on the floor around the base of the toilet in their bathroom. I assumed the wax ring under the toilet had gone bad, and the toilet was leaking. I overlooked the now obvious other possibility that one of them was peeing on or near the toilet instead of in the toilet.

Actually, the wet bathroom floor is not solely a nocturnal consciousness issue. Number One has pretty good aim with number one when he’s awake, but the other two boys are wild cards. Son Number Two is constantly in a hurry, and Son Number Three combines a lack of coordination with a propensity to go no-handed. I am trying to instill the belief in them that “on and around the toilet” is not the same as “in the toilet.” I don’t think I’m making any headway.

Since Son Number One is on familiar ground at home, the sleep-peeing usually occurs where it is supposed to, since the bathroom is always right where it’s supposed to be. We have to be on our toes when we travel, though.

“Sorry about our son peeing in your closet. Urine comes out of suede, right?”

Sleepwalking is a strange thing. His eyes are open, and he navigates around obstacles like he’s awake, only a little wobbly, like he’s been drinking beer or cough syrup. He appears to simply be sleepy, but in reality, his brain has only powered up the walk-around functions. The good decision making part of the brain is still out cold. His bladder is the only thing that triggers the events, so unfortunately, we don’t have any cute sleepwalking stories about him drawing a picture or rearranging the furniture. They all end in pee.

The key is the lack of conversation. If you see him out of bed and walking around and he won’t answer you when you say his name, you’d better start moving, because he’s about to pee in the kitchen pantry. The potty training manuals won’t be any help with this one, because there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it. You just have to hope he grows out of it, and resign yourself to the fact that you won’t own nice carpet until he leaves for college. That, and eliminate asparagus from his diet.

I have to go now. I just heard the bathroom door, but no toilet noises. It’s more of a hollow sound… I think he just peed in the tub.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Haha great piece! I found this because we think our 7 yr old is doing this as well. Fortunately it is always in the bathroom, but he usually uses the lid as a backboard.

  2. Thanks Veronica! I have good news for you. Our sleep-peer is almost ten now, and has stopped peeing on things that are not a toilet, so I guess eventually it stops. Or they just get better at maneuvering while asleep... Good luck with yours. My boys use the lid as a backboard when they're fully awake, so it sounds like you're doing better than me!
    Thanks for reading,