Farting: Everyone does it. Also called passing gas, farting is simply excess gas leaving your digestive system through your anus.
Gas builds up in the digestive system as your body processes the food you eat. It forms most often in the large intestine (colon) when bacteria digest the carbohydrates that have not been digested in your small intestine.
Some bacteria take up some of the gas, but the rest gets passed out of the body through the anus as a fart or through the mouth as a burp. When a person isn’t able to get rid of excess gas, they may experience gas pain, or a buildup of gas in the gastrointestinal tract.
Foods high in fiber commonly cause gas. These include beans and peas (legumes), fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Though these foods can increase gas in the body, fiber is important for keeping your digestive system healthy and in regulating your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Other causes of increased gas in the digestive system include:
- consuming carbonated drinks such as soda and beer
- eating habits that cause you to swallow air, such as eating too quickly, drinking through straws, sucking on candies, chewing on gum, or talking while chewing
- fiber supplements that contain psyllium, like Metamucil
- sugar substitutes (also called artificial sweeteners), such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol, which are found in some sugar-free foods and beverages
It is possible to fart while you sleep because the anal sphincter relaxes slightly when gas builds up. This can allow small amounts of gas to escape unintentionally.
Most people don’t realize they are farting in their sleep. Sometimes the sound of a fart can wake you up during a point in sleep when you are slightly conscious, such as while you’re falling asleep or in a light sleep.
The most common way people learn that they are farting in their sleep is if someone else, like their partner, tells them.
If people fart during their sleep, why don’t they poop during their sleep? The anal sphincter does relax during sleep, but only enough to allow small amounts of gas to escape.
Most people poop at the same time every day, typically during waking hours, because their bodies tend to get on a regular schedule.
A possible reason you might get an urge to wake up from sleeping in order to have a bowel movement is if you are ill or if you’ve been traveling a lot and your bathroom schedule gets shifted.
Most people do not sleep-fart frequently. Instead, it happens when excess gas builds up in the body. This can be a result of illness, digestive disorders, food intolerances, stress, changes in eating habits, or hormonal shifts.
Snoring during sleep is much more common. Though snoring, like farting, produces a lot of noise, they are not related behaviors.
Snoring is a harsh noise that occurs when the air you breathe has something obstructing its flow, such as when it moves past floppy, relaxed soft tissues in your throat. It’s not related to the gas in your digestive system. This causes the tissues to vibrate and create extra sound.
Snoring may also be a nuisance to your partner. And in some cases, it could be a sign of a serious health problem. Snoring might be related to:
- Gender. Men snore more frequently than women.
- Weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of snoring.
- Anatomy. Having a longer or thicker soft top of your mouth, a deviated septum in your nose, or large tonsils may narrow your airway and cause snoring.
- Drinking habits. Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, increasing your risk of snoring.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, the muscles in your throat relax intermittently, narrowing and blocking your airway. This causes you to start and stop breathing repeatedly during sleep.
The average person farts 5 to 15 times per day. People with certain digestive disorders may experience more gas. Some disorders known to be associated with increased gas include:
- Crohn’s disease
- food intolerances like lactose intolerance
- celiac disease
- changes in bowel bacteria
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Those undergoing hormonal changes, such as those with menstrual disorders, or women who are pregnant or menstruating, may also experience an increase in gas.
People who consume foods containing large amounts of fiber, such as vegetarians and vegans, may also experience more gas. Foods containing fiber are generally healthy and should be part of your healthy diet. But they do cause gas.
If you’re trying to reduce the amount that you fart in your sleep (and during the day), some simple adjustments to your lifestyle might help.
- Reduce or avoid high-fiber foods, dairy, sugar substitutes, and fried or fatty foods for a few weeks, and then gradually add them back as your symptoms improve.
- Reduce or avoid carbonated drinks and instead drink more water.
- Talk to a doctor about reducing the dosage of your fiber supplement or switching to a fiber supplement that causes less gas.
- Eat your last meal or snack a few hours before bed. Giving time between your final meal of the day and your sleep reduces the amount of gas your body produces when you sleep.
- Try alpha-galactosidase anti-gas pills (Beano and BeanAssist), which break down the carbohydrates in beans and other vegetables. Take this supplement just before eating a meal.
- Try simethicone anti-gas pills (Gas-X and Mylanta Gas Minis), which break up the bubbles in gas. This could help the gas pass through your digestive system without causing you to fart. Note that these pills are not clinically proven to relieve gas symptoms. Take these after eating.
- Try activated charcoal (Actidose-Aqua and CharoCaps) before and after a meal, which may reduce gas buildup. Note that these are not clinically proven as effective, may also affect your body’s ability to absorb certain medications, and could stain your mouth and clothing.
- Stop smoking, since tobacco smoking increases the amount of air you swallow, causing gas to build up in the body. Quitting smoking is difficult, but a doctor can help you create a smoking cessation plan right for you.
In most cases, some simple adjustments to your lifestyle can help you decrease gas buildup and stop farting during sleep.
Farting in your sleep is usually not hazardous to your health. But in other cases, excess gas might be a sign of a more serious issue that requires treatment.
If you find you suddenly start farting during your sleep, pass excessive amounts of gas during the day, or experience uncomfortable gas pains, see a doctor. Treating any underlying condition can help reduce your gassiness and improve your quality of life.