You know that awful moment in the middle of the night when you’re startled awake by your own bed-rattling fart?
It might have sounded like a long squeak, like air escaping from a balloon. Or it might have sounded like an under-the-covers thunderstorm, leaving you with ringing ears.
If you share the bed with someone…you lay there perfectly still, heart pounding in your chest, silently praying that your partner wasn’t woken up by your audible butt breach. Did they hear it? Does it smell? Did you just accidentally dutch oven your partner who sleeps under the covers?
And in the dead of the night, with no one else around, you can’t blame it on anyone else. It’s pretty easy to locate the culprit.
Ahh, the dreaded night fart…whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all been there. It’s like an alarm clock we didn’t set. On average a healthy adult produces one to four pints of gas daily! This gas is expelled by farting an average of 14-20 times per day.1
For some, night farts only plague us on occasion after too many brussel sprouts or an Indian food overload. For others, night farts infest our bed on a nightly basis, causing shame, anxiety, and even lack of sleep.
What causes nocturnal flatulence? Is there anything that you can do to stop your bedroom from turning into a gas chamber?
Whether you deal with night farts on the regular or only on occasion, everyone can benefit from a deeper understanding regarding the gas that is passed in the night.
The Simple Science Behind Farting
Basic gas, day or night, can occur for a variety of reasons, most of them being related to food and digestion in one way or another.2
When we consume food, it passes through our stomach and then small intestines where digestion and the absorption of nutrients occurs. Anything that isn’t absorbed continues to the large intestines, often referred to as the colon.
The colon contains useful bacteria that quickly get to work breaking down your food. As a result of this breakdown, gases such as methane and hydrogen are produced. The build-up of these gases cause us to fart.
When food is not properly digested, it begins to rot and releases sulfur gas. This sulfur gas is to blame for those gag-inducing smelly farts that happen.
Whether these gases exit your body in the form of a fart or simply dissipate internally depends on the amount of gas present. Abundant gas build-up quite simply results in abundant farting which, if loud enough, can wake you or your partner up at night.
The intensity and frequency that gas is created differs from person to person. It is also highly dependent on how the foods that you eat interact with your individual bacteria.
The Food Behind Your Sleep Farts
While gas is a very personalized bodily function, there are certain foods that are more likely to cause the buildup of gas-and we’re not talking just beans here. Any food that is difficult for the body to digest spends more time in the colon creating excess gas.2
Foods that contain high levels of various sugars, real or artificial, are common culprits for excessive sleep farts. These sugars exist in so many things that we commonly consume.
The following are four different sugars that may be causing you to experience excessive gas. Keep in mind, many of the foods listed may or may not have any impact on your gassiness when consumed in moderate quantities.
Fructose occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, pears, grapes, apples, asparagus, onions, and cabbage. Other products such as soft drinks and syrups contain added fructose as well.
Often not thought of as a sugar, lactose is milk’s natural sweetener and something than many people are intolerant of. If you were born with low levels of the enzyme lactase in your gut, your body might not be able to break down products containing lactose such as milk, cheese, butter, ice cream, or whipping cream. Since milk doesn’t really help you fall asleep quicker, you shouldn’t have a need to drink it before heading to bed.
RaffinoseThis type of sugar is found in beans, giving them the reputation for causing gas. It can also be found in cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is basically indigestible by the human body. Unfortunately, it is also naturally found in almost all fruits. More commonly, sorbitol is known for its use as a sugar substitute in diet products.
Does this mean that you have to avoid all foods containing these sugars in order to remain fart-free?
The key is finding out what specific foods trigger your body to produce gas at night. It’s different for everyone.
Is Your Farting a Cause for Concern?
If you’re only occasionally jolted awake by a noisy night fart, medically you have nothing to worry about.
But if your night farting is excessively uncontrollable and accompanied by painful bloating or cramps more than four nights a week, it may be a sign of something slightly more serious.
Persistent and constant night farts may point to other medical conditions such as lactose intolerance or Celiac’s disease. You also may have something jokingly referred to as butt apnea.
Never heard of it?
That’s because many people are simply too embarrassed to speak with their doctor about extreme night farting. Most sufferers try to treat their condition with over the counter gas-reliever
In reference to OTC gas-relievers, gastroenterologist Ginny Larkin says:
Plain and simple, they do not work. Farts that happen in your sleep are up to 20 times trickier than regular farts. They have a mind of their own. 3
While butt apnea is not terribly dangerous, it can be quite frustrating. This is because there is no real cure. It’s situation that simply must be managed and controlled, likely with diet modification.
In addition to diet modification, there are a few other DIY solutions that may help curb butt apnea or other cases of night-time butt-burps.
Managing Your Night Farting
I hate to break it you but it’s scientifically impossible to eliminate the body’s production of gas and the act of farting entirely. Since your body continues to breakdown and digest food as you sleep, night farting is simply a natural byproduct.
Worried that your partner might start sleeping on the couch due to your persistent sleep farts? Don’t panic just yet.
Since sleep farting generally has no cause for concern, there are not a whole lot of medical treatments for this issue.
However, let’s assume that the musical gasses coming from your rear end at night are not due to an underlying digestive disorder. If this is the case, then there are a handful of lifestyle changes that may help keep your partner from abandoning the bed for a less farty sleep location.
As discussed earlier, night-time farting is often due to the foods that you are consuming. Modifying your diet can often reduce the frequency and intensity of this release of gas.
This is no easy fix, though. It can take a significant amount of trial and error in order to pinpoint which foods or food groups are contributing to your nightly toots.
“We can reduce the farts somewhat,” Dr. Larkin notes, “but we can’t stop them entirely.”3
One way to do this is to eliminate basically everything from your diet. For a few days, do not consume any of the major culprits of gas and bloating such as dairy, legumes, sugars, or certain gassy vegetables.
Slowly add back in one specific food group at a time, making sure to document or journal your gas symptoms and what you consume every day. If you are lucky, you will be able to see a noticeable shift in gas production based on what you are eating and alter your diet accordingly.
2. Avoid Fizzy Beverages Before Bed
Passing wind at night could be due to something as simple as consuming carbonated beverages. I personally cannot live without La Croix and I drink almost an entire 12-pack daily, so this tip is particularly horrifying to me. Luckily, my affinity for sparkling water doesn’t cause me to fart in my sleep…as far as I know.
Carbonated beverages commonly do cause bloating and excess gas, though, and cutting them out may be a simple fix for your bedtime butt burps. Swap the soda for good old-fashioned water. It might not be as tasty but it sure is good for you!
3.Wear Something Tight to Sleep
Outfitting yourself in second-skin like clothing that specifically maneuvers its way up between your butt cheeks may help contain those sleep farts.
I know that ‘wedgie’ causing clothing is generally not a good thing, but in the case of curbing your nightly gas expulsion, a self-imposed ‘wedgie’ can be helpful.
Wearing tight spandex shorts or a thong with a thick butt-floss can act as a barrier for when you let one rip. This may not make your farts inaudible, but it should help to cut down on their noisiness.
4. Pillow Between the Legs
I find that sleeping with a pillow in between my legs is quite comfortable and serves to take a bit of strain off of my back. Turns out, this can also soften the blow of your farts.
I never really considered it but it would seem that sleeping with a pillow between your legs also separates your butt cheeks. This means, when those farts come out, they can freely escape without noisily bouncing off of your buttocks. Plus, side-sleeping in this position is good for your back!
5. Re-Position Yourself
The position that you choose to sleep in can affect many different things. Sleeping in the fetal position can decrease the likelihood of leakage during > menstruation, sleeping on your side can increase drooling, and sleeping on your stomach can cause night-time farting.
When you sleep on your stomach, you are in the prime position for farting. There is added pressure from your bodyweight on your abdomen and your butt is up in the air and ready to release anything that may creep up on it.
Do yourself a favor and start sleeping on your side. Preferably with your rear end facing the opposite direction from your bed partner.
6. Seek Holistic Help
Those who suffer from butt apnea might find it helpful to seek advice from a doctor who offers less traditional and holistic solutions.
Dr. Liza Pinto specializes in nocturnal anal emissions. She claims that:
Patients need to get in touch with their digestive system. That’s the first step towards gaining control over this.3
Her first step in helping treat these nocturnal anal emissions is to offer her patients reading materials with titles like Getting to Know Your Farts and Always the Big Spoon.
She also helps her patients by offering massage and visualization tactics. These techniques serve to improve muscle tone in the anal sphincter.
Pinto says, “A lot of people think a more elastic anus means more gas leakage. Actually, it’s like a rubber band. If it’s stretched tight all the time, it can’t bounce back. You need flexibility to control those butt burps.”
7. Get A Dog
When in doubt, deny, deny, deny! And get a dog!
What do I mean?
Dogs fart. A LOT.
When your sweetheart rolls over and looks at you disgustedly after hearing or smelling what just escaped your rear end, you can smile innocently and say, “It wasn’t me! It was Fido!”
Getting a dog (and making sure he sleeps right next to you) will make your fart denial that much more believable!
Do you struggle with night farts or know someone who does? Let’s slash the shame and share our stories and comments here in an effort to help each other live more comfortably with sleep farts