Deep Sleep Bed Wetting / Deep Sleep Debting

DH = Dear Husband


When I was a child, I used to wet the bed. That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I’m going somewhere with this. I have vague memories of my parents waking me up to take me to the bathroom a few hours after I’d gone to sleep in the hopes of avoiding a wet mess. I have slightly guilty memories of them cleaning the sheets and wiping down the bed in the morning. And embarrassing memories of sleep-overs gone wrong. Eventually, I grew out of it.

One of our daughters was a bed wetter. The invention of pull-ups allowed us to avoid the mess of my own childhood, but we still did the late night trips to the bathroom, and we patiently waited for the “grow out of it” part to happen. Five years old. Six years old. Seven years old. Eight years old. Nine years old. I got increasingly worried with each passing year, and started to see professionals. Our doctor. A urologist. A psychologist. A psychiatrist. No solution. Until . . .

Bed-wetting solution

We bought a bed-wetting alarm. The alarm attached to our daughter’s pyjamas, and it went off as soon as urine came into contact with the sensor. We were advised that it would take 6-9 months, but if I remember correctly, it only took 3. At first, the alarm would go off in the middle of the night, and while everyone else in the house would wake up, our daughter slept soundly through it. DH and I would have to go into her room, wake her up, get her out of bed, take her to the bathroom, change the sheets if necessary, and then put her back to bed. Sometimes, it would happen again before morning. It was exhausting, but we were determined to see it through.

After a few weeks, she would wake up to the sound of the alarm before we came into her room. A while later, she would wake up to the alarm and be in the bathroom before we’d reached her room. And then we’d wake up after a full night’s sleep and find out she’d gone to the bathroom without the alarm going off. When many nights in a row passed by without any alarm sounding, we knew it was over. And it was.

In 98% of chronic bed-wetting cases, it’s a matter of unusually deep sleep. No need for a doctor, urologist, psychologist or psychiatrist. Just a need to wake up. I’ve had the opportunity to talk about bed wetting alarms with a handful of parents  in the years since our experience with our daughter, but only a handful. Bed wetting is not something people talk about. Sort of like debt.

The “rock bottom” alarm

People talk about their rock bottom experiences in many different contexts. Laura, whose weight loss story was featured at Fruclassity over the last two weeks, remembered how awful it was not to be able to bend down to tie up her own shoes. It was this rock bottom experience that led her to lose 90 pounds. The financial distress that DH and I faced, when we were maxed out and dealing with reduced income from job loss, led us to our financial turn-around. So the rock bottom phenomenon, while miserable, has the saving grace that it leads to positive change. It’s the alarm that wakes us up from our deep sleep of denial.

But some people have unusually deep sleep.

Sleeping through the alarm

DH once worked with an extremely obese man who said his doctor had told him that if he didn’t lose weight, he’d die. He’d say this at the vending machine as he bought Mae West chocolate cakes. He died.

Charles Duhigg, in his book Power of Habittells the story of Angie Bachmann, a woman who went bankrupt because of her addiction to gambling. A few years after losing everything, she lost her mother – and gained a $1 million inheritance. She gambled “just once” a few times, and then started to receive incentives from a casino. Free concert tickets. Free hotel. Even free money. She lost every cent. Even more than every cent. She went into debt with the casino – which sued her for the amount owed. Bachmann took it to the courts. She was helpless against her addictive gambling habits, she claimed, and the casino had manipulated her. But Bachmann lost the case and had to pay it all back.

Duhigg concludes that the judgment was fair. “It is just that Angie Bachmann should be held accountable . . . Bachmann . . . was aware of her habits. And once you know a habit exists, you have the responsibility to change it.”


Earlier this month, J. Money from Budgets are $exy wrote a post about the pitfalls of payday loans – in the hopes of reaching people who don’t generally read pf blogs. In the comments section, Beth wrote, “Okay – This really addresses a question that I ask myself everyday (and never come up with an answer). HOW DO WE HELP EDUCATE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT INTO PERSONAL FINANCE AND ARE FINANCIALLY CLUELESS??”

I think that Beth is talking about people who don’t seem to recognize “rock bottom” when they hit it. Bad experience is followed by worse experience, but the alarm doesn’t waken. I think she’s talking about the deep sleepers.

And what is the answer to her question? I have some ideas:

  • Recognize that there is an addiction going on. The person really doesn’t have the power to overcome through willpower.
  • Extend understanding. This will be easier to do if you’ve ever struggled with money management yourself, but even if you haven’t, there is probably another area in your life (eating? exercise? mood swings? troubled relationships?) where you have felt a frustrated powerlessness. Just transfer that understanding.
  • Assert the possibility of change, and the fact that it takes different strategies for different people. A good book on finances might be enough for one person. Another person might need the support of Debtors Anonymous. Do what it takes.

People who are deep sleepers when it comes to money are aware of their destructive habits, but many can’t change them on their own. My daughter needed an alarm and a support team to overcome deep sleep bed wetting. The best we can do for deep sleep debtors is to provide a similar combination of wake-up and help. There’s a tricky balance to strike in sounding the alarm on the one hand – refusing to support the lie that “it’s just fine” – and on the other hand, to point the way to constructive help compassionately, without judgment. But I think it can be done.

Have you ever been frustrated by someone’s “deep sleep” destructive financial habits? Have you ever been able to help a “deep sleeper” effectively? Your comments are welcome.

*Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

22 comments on “Deep Sleep Bed Wetting / Deep Sleep Debting

  1. We had to use a bed wetting alarm for one of our children too. We had the same fears, but the issue was the deep sleep. Once we used the alarm the problem corrected itself in a matter of months. I have been working with a few financial “deep sleepers” recently, but found that they really need to be willing to commit to the changes it takes to get their finances on track, many look for the quick easy fixes. Once committed with some hard work they solve their issues and never look back. The trick is getting to that point.

    1. I think bed wetting is more common than we might think. I’m glad the alarm worked for your family too. It really is difficult to know how to help a deep-sleeping debtor. You can’t be the fix – they have to be the fix. You can only offer your best understanding and advice and encouragement. The hardest part is letting it go if the deep sleeper keeps sleeping – though there’s always hope the wake up will happen some day.

  2. Our son is 7 and we do the same exact procedure you mentioned, waking him up and having him go. It’s like trying to work with a zombie. We’ve considered the alarm for him. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Great analogy here, Ruth! This is such a complex issue. One of the reasons I started a pf blog is to help people “wake up” and see that life is so much better without the daily financial stresses. And that they actually can take action to help themselves (or get help, when they need it). I think for many people, it takes hitting bottom and moving from an attitude of “I know I should” to “I want to and am willing to do whatever it takes”. I definitely think you’re on to something when you say it’s a balance between not allowing them to go on with the financial “lies”, but to also gently guide them with the information and support they need. Thanks for this…it got the wheels turning this morning!

    1. Thanks, Amanda. I’m glad this post got the wheels turning for you : ) When you say “it takes hitting bottom” – I think of people who HAVE hit what sure looks like rock bottom, but they still operate in denial, not addressing the habits that hurt them. It’s baffling. Or maybe it’s simply that the real rock bottom is still to come. “This is such a complex issue.” You are absolutely right.

  4. I dealt with the financial issue some at my old employer with some employees I supervised. It was difficult sometimes because an employees work record often reflects their financial health. No work=no money.

    Some didn’t get the picture, others did. I received some interesting phone calls from some people who didn’t even have reliable transportation to get to work due to poor money management decisions. It was sad because us supervisors & co-workers would help as much as possible, but you can only have so many second chances before you go below rock bottom.

    1. That’s the truth, Josh – as proven by my husband’s colleague who ignored his doctor’s advice and died. The addict scenario is pretty accurate here, and it includes co-dependent enablers. It’s very difficult for friends and colleagues to navigate the line between support and enabling, but enabling is definitely not the answer.

  5. I help facilitate Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course at my church. There are many people that attend the course and get a lot out of it.

    However, there are some people that won’t take responsibility for the financial situation that they are in. It’s incredible frustrating when they know what they need to do but unwilling to make the changes and then bad mouth the class to others.

    Like everything in life, you only get out what you put in.

    1. I am hoping to facilitate Ramsey’s course at my church too – though I’m lacking a window of time. I’m both fascinated and frustrated by that phenomenon of people knowing what to do but being unwilling to do it. I think that most of us have been there to some extent in some area of life, but there’s a level of denial that is truly self-defeating, and I wish I knew how to break through it. Thanks for reading and commenting, Mustard Seed Money! I hope you keep on with your facilitation of FPU.

  6. What a great analogy and it made me laugh out loud a few times as I am struggling with a deep-sleeping bed-wetter of my own. (Gosh I hope he grows out of it)! But you’re totally, absolutely right! There is no one size fits all solution for those dealing with destructive financial habits. I see it with clients every week and although they don’t necessarily have to hit rock bottom, some do need a lot more encouragement than others in order to stay on track. Thank you for your post!

    1. Thank you, Crystal. I really appreciate your comment. It sounds like some of your clients don’t realize how much power they actually have to change things. Keep up the good work in encouraging them that they do! As for your deep-sleeping bed-wetter, I can’t recommend an alarm enough. No need to wait for him to “grow out of it” on his own. 6 months of alarm therapy could turn things around – to the benefit of all concerned : ) All the best!

  7. Great analogy I must say, I should definitely try this bet wet alarm for my cousin. His parents are really worried about it and are looking forward for a solution, I will surely suggest this to them. I hope it is going to work well.

    Keep writing more posts,

    Have a good day!

    1. Thank you Rajkumar. It’s unfortunate that people keep hush-hush on the topic of bed-wetting. This alarm is the answer 98% of the time. All the best to your cousin and his parents. I understand their worry – but it doesn’t have to last.

  8. I definitely have people close to me, especially family, who are seriously involved in very destructive financial habits. I’ve learned they have no interest in listening if I try to speak to them about it. The best I have been able to do live the best life I can and hope they ask questions when our lives intersect. Every once in a while, one of them asks me advice and I try to give the best I can. I still wish I could do more, though

    1. That’s frustrating, Ben! I think you’re handling it the right way: You’re practicing financial wisdom, and you’re available to help and advise if anyone asks. I hope that those questions will come your way more and more often as your wisdom becomes more evident and appealing. The one thing I’d be on my guard against is bailing people out. Family members can have outrageous expectations of successful relations, and if you have family members who are on destructive financial paths, there’s a very good chance that at least one of them will turn to you for “help” in the form of a bail out. I really hope you don’t offer it.

      1. No, I’ve been able to establish good, solid boundaries with my family. I was taught pretty early on (and so were they) not to offer money to anyone. I was taught to soul-search and if I felt it was right to help someone, to find a way to help that really helped them, such as anonymously paying an electric bill or something like that, rather than giving cash. That way, they are truly aided, and not just given cash to squander, and they don’t know I did it, so they don’t come to depend on me.

        1. It sounds like you were taught some very good things about money – as were other family members who aren’t making such great choices. It’s remarkable how good teaching can take hold in one person and not another – even that “other” is related. I was always the worst with money in my family (I’m the youngest of 5), but I’m turning around! So there’s hope for the not-so-wise in your family too : )

  9. That alarm sounds great. I had a friend who’d come to slumber parties and have to bring a rubber sheet. She put on a brave face about it though. I guess that’s how it is with debt too. Super analogy Ruth. You have the most fascinating revelations!

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