When I think of sleep farts (which is, to be clear, not so often) one story comes to mind from my friend Shiloh*, a chronic offender. She learned of her…skill years ago while talking with her college boyfriend about something toilet-humor related, when suddenly, the dude got real weird. “He was like, ‘actually you may be embarrassed by this,’ and then he proceeded to tell me how in a deep, post-sex slumber, I farted directly into his lap,” Shiloh recounts to me. “He described it as ‘Nagasaki in my lap.’”
But, you know what, Shiloh's college boyfriend? Just like everybody poops, everybody also farts—and it's nothing to be embarrassed about. So for you, sir, wherever you are, I sought to answer why it is we seem to really let it go (let it go, can't hold it back anymore!), flatulence-wise once we're sleeping. And apparently, a big, stinky social construct is largely to blame.
“When we are in public, we have to behave a certain way,” gastroenterologist Samantha Nazareth, MD, tells me. “Passing gas is not acceptable, and therefore we hold in the gas consciously. But, passing gas is part of digestion.”
If you won't let your body do it's thing IRL, when you're relaxed and asleep, your muscles give out, and your brain DGAF.
And though we can clench and hope for the best in the daytime (which is not a healthy idea for your bod), the battle against the maple pecan Brussel sprouts you ate during dinner has got to end at some point. And if you won't let your body do it's thing IRL, when you're relaxed and asleep, your muscles give out, and your brain DGAF.
“Our external anal sphincter is under voluntary control (we can control the muscle around our anus to hold things in) during the daytime,” Dr. Nazareth says. “During sleep, well, we are certainly not thinking about holding in that anal sphincter.”
So while there's no reason to be ashamed whenever you break wind, there's certainly no shame in your sleep-fart game. In deep sleep, your body is not actively trying to be polite and save your S.O. from a potential Dutch oven situation. And if you have one of those loud, wakes-up-you-and-your-bedmate breed of farts? First, lean into your instinct to laugh. Second, just own it by saying something like, “Sorry, body can’t control itself.” Or if you’re me, pretend it never happened for the rest of your life (#workingonit).
Or if you’re like Shiloh, you can rock it and just make it part of being in an open, healthy relationship. (Update: Shiloh is now married to a very fart-positive human. It appears she has met her match.)
*Names changed to protect the gaseous.
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