Dealing with a gassy gut at bedtime makes for a lousy night’s sleep. And while passing gas is totally natural, when you’re trying to catch some Zzzs, it’s both inconvenient and uncomfortable.
The average person toots their horn about 12 to 25 times a day, according to double board-certified gastroenterologist and internist Vanessa Mendez, M.D. “Most of the gas we produce does not have a smell, which is why many of us don’t even realize how much gas we pass,” she says.
Though you may expect your system to slow down in the evening when you prepare to rest, that’s not really how it goes. “While we sleep, our digestive system continues to work, especially our gut microbes, which continue to digest and ferment foods,” explains Mendez.
If your system tends to go haywire at night and it’s disrupting your sleep, look out for one of these five potential offenders.
1. You’re Eating FODMAPS at Night
It should come as no surprise that what you eat impacts your digestion—and loading up on certain foods in the evening can set you up for bedtime gas.
The foods most likely to cause a ruckus are FODMAPs—fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are not absorbed properly in the small intestine and, for some people, trigger digestive disturbances.
Though many high-FODMAP foods are healthy—think beans, lentils, oat bran, broccoli, cabbage, peas, apples, pears, asparagus, onions, and garlic—they can be more likely to cause gas. Foods that contain sweeteners, such as sorbitol (found in dried fruit) and xylitol (found in sugar-free chewing gum), as well as dairy products, can also stir up trouble.
If you’re concerned about FODMAPs, “keep a food and symptom diary of when you feel your gas is worse,” recommends Mendez. This will help you determine which foods may be causing extra flatulence so that you can avoid them before bed.
Read More: 8 Possible Reasons Why Your Digestion is Off
And when in doubt, “some people find that taking either activated charcoal or over-the-counter gas and bloating medicines before meals helps cut down on the amount of gas produced,” says Rudolph Bedford, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. If dairy, specifically, is an issue for you, try a lactase enzyme.
2. You’re Eating Too Close To Bedtime
Hate to break it to you, but nine o’clock dinners and late-night snacking may be getting your gut in gear for gas, since your digestive system is forced to work harder while you’re trying to sleep.
To give your body enough time to digest before you hit the hay, Mendez suggests establishing a cutoff time for eating that’s at least three hours before you go to sleep.
Additionally, if you supplement regularly with fiber, aim to take it during your final meal instead of right before bed. “Many people go to bed shortly after taking a fiber supplement, which will also cause gas to occur,” says Bedford.
3. You’re Constipated
If you’re feeling backed up (the National Institutes of Health defines constipation as less than three bowel movements a week with dry, hard-to-pass stools), you may find yourself gassy at night.
“Your digestive system is like a long plumbing tube,” explains Mendez. “If it’s not emptying out regularly, it’s going to get backed up and cause excess or uncomfortable gas production.”
To open the floodgates naturally, increase your activity levels. “An after-dinner evening stroll will help move things along,” she suggests.
Drinking more H2O throughout the day can also help clear out your tract, since dehydration tends to cause constipation. “It’s the motility of your system that you want to keep moving, so water, water, water and exercise, exercise, exercise,” Bedford says. A good rule of thumb? Divide your body weight (in pounds) in half and drink that many ounces of water per day.
4. You’re Taking In Too Much Air
According to the NIH, ingesting excess air that is not released by the mouth (as in burping) travels throughout the intestines and escapes in the only other way it can. Since we swallow large amounts of air when we chew gum, sip carbonated drinks, suck on hard candy, and eat and drink too quickly, cutting down on these activities (especially in the evening) could make a big difference in how much gas builds up in your system.
5. You Have An Underlying GI Issue
If you’re still not sure what’s causing all that gas, a more serious GI issue might be at play.
After all, gastrointestinal disorders are quite common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 22.4 million annual office visits result in a digestive disease diagnosis, while a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that after questioning more than 71,800 American adults, 61 percent reported suffering from GI symptoms within the previous week. (The most popular complaints were heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.)
One example? Regular excess gas could indicate an imbalance in the gut microbiome, a condition known as dysbiosis, Mendez says. “We rely on our gut microbes for digestion of fiber, and an imbalance signifies we don’t have a robust digestion army to help us break down complex carbohydrates,” she explains.
If you’re dealing with digestive symptoms like bloating, abdominal discomfort, and odoriferous gas regularly, consider speaking with your healthcare provider, advises Bedford.