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Why Do We Yawn? (Causes and Facts of Yawning)

Aparajita SharmaReviewed by Ms. Aprajita Sharma Sr. Audiologist and Speech Therapist BASLP, MPH (Epidemiology) on Apr 9th, 2019 written by Editorial Team

What is Yawning?

One of the most common and uncontrollable actions that we are used too frequently is to yawn. Right from the moment, we get up in the morning to the time we go to sleep at night, yawning is our everyday habit, which occurs naturally though.

Yawning

Yawning is basically an involuntary process of opening one’s mouth and taking a deep breath in that fills the lungs with oxygen and also improves the circulation of blood in the body. Even thinking about yawning can make a person do it. It’s something that everybody does, this includes animals as well.

Many people often ask this question that if yawning is contagious. There are many theories that explain to us why we yawn involuntarily. One popular theory is that yawning helps our body bring in more oxygen that is required, especially for the proper functioning of the brain and blood circulation.

Why do we Yawn?

Although there are several theories that try to explain effectively the purpose of yawning, we shall also learn the reasons that are responsible for causing yawn in humans.

The most scientifically backed theory as to why we yawn is brain temperature regulation. If the brain’s temperature increased too much, inhaling air can help cool it down.

Some of the common reasons that usually causes a person to yawn are due to the following:

Change of State

Yawning can simply be a way for the body to change the state of awareness in mind. For instance:

  • Before Bed – It can be taken as a sign that your body is ready to sleep.
  • Getting Bored – Yawning when you are doing a boring task might be a sign that your brain is changing from a high level of alertness to lower one.
  • After Exercise – Yawning after an intense workout or sports activity might be a sign that your brain is changing from high energy to low energy.
  • Physical State – You may also yawn when there is a change in the physical state like moving from an area of high pressure to low pressure.

Respiratory Function

Yawning can be a function of breathing and it is more likely to happen when the blood needs oxygen. A yawn causes a faster heartbeat and a big intake of air which means that it is pumping and more blood and oxygen into the body.

Yawning is responsible for clearing toxins out of the blood and providing a fresh supply of oxygen.

Cooling the Brain

Yawning causes the jaw to stretch out resulting in the increased flow of blood in face and neck. It also helps blood and spinal fluid to cycle through the body faster.  This process might be a way to cool down a hot brain.

Communication Tool

Yawning is something that mimics. When someone around you yawns, you will automatically start to have an urge to yawn.

No one can explain why does it happen but some researchers believe that it happens because of evolution. When humans were not able to communicate vocally they may have used yawns as a method of conversation. And from then on, we are still carrying this habit.

Migraine

You may also find yourself yawning more if you are suffering from a condition such as a migraine. This is because during a migraine, your blood starts to clot in the brain and yawning helps to cool down your brain from clotting.

Is Yawning Contagious?

Contagious Yawning
Contagious Yawning

It is often debated whether yawning is contagious or not. Thus, several studies and research are in favor that yawning is indeed, contagious. When you see someone yawning in front of you, then you automatically start to yawn, too.

Also, even thinking about yawning can actually make a person yawn and this could also turn out to become repetitive.

This is also seen as a way of expressing bonding and empathy between the individuals, or among a group of individuals when they yawn at each other. So, this proves that yawning is contagious.

According to a study, contagiousness in humans is an individual response because there is a little correlation between intelligence, empathy and time of the day. The biggest factor founded is age due to older people less likely to catch a yawn from others.

Excessive Yawning

Yawning is often harmless but it might also be possible to yawn too much. Yawning too much or excessive yawning might be caused by different disorders that can require medical attention.

Excessive Yawning
Excessive Yawning Causes

There is a nerve in your body which connects your throat and abdomen to your brain. This nerve can be the cause of excessive yawning because it interacts with the blood vessels. This interaction is called a vasovagal reaction.

It shows a sign of a sleep disorder or maybe a brain condition. It might even be a sign of heart conditions like heart attack or problems with the Aorta.

If you are experiencing a lot of yawning than you should contact a medical professional as soon as possible.

How to get control on Yawning?

Take deep breaths

When you are yawning excessively, or even have a feeling of doing it, try taking a deep breath, hold it for a couple of seconds and then exhale. Repeat this exercise a few times till you are able to control your yawns.

Exercise daily

Keeping your body active by exercising daily will certainly help you overcome involuntary yawning. When you exercise, it helps in stimulating your body and brain. Schedule your time for exercise to help keep you in shape and active.

Keep yourself hydrated and cool

Drink plenty of water, chilled liquids, or eat chilled fruits. Doing so will bring the temperature in your body down. You may also take a walk outside or find a space with a cooler temperature.

Build a sleep schedule and stick to it

If you do not get proper sleep, not only will you have a harsh day, you will also tend to yawn very often. Therefore, it should be a good practice to develop a strict sleeping schedule. This can also be done by creating a comfortable environment before bedtime.

Fast facts on Yawning

Here are some factors of yawning in which some of them can seem odd to you. These are:

  • When you yawn, it is a response to lack of stimulation or Fatigue.
  • Even in the womb, babies can yawn.
  • As a part of the human natural empathic response, yawning is contagious.
  • It serves communicating boredom which is a social function.
  • An average yawn can last for up to 6 seconds.
  • You are more likely to yawn during winter.
  • You can’t catch a yawn from anybody instead you catch a yawn only from the person that is related to you whether genetically or emotionally.

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Why Do We Yawn? (Causes and Facts of Yawning)
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