Why Do People Yawn? Everything You Need to Know
Why do people yawn? Yawning is a very common sign that everyone experiences occasionally. Just thinking about yawning can cause it.
Yawning is also contagious and uncontrollable. At first, researchers theorized that yawning is a sign that your brain needs more oxygen, which it gets by taking a deep inspiration. However, recent evidence debunked this theory. Since then, many theories came out to explain this phenomenon.
In this article, we will cover the different aspects of yawning to see what it tells us about your health, brain temperature, and emotional intelligence.
Causes of yawning – why do people yawn?
According to research, the most probable theory that explains yawning is brain temperature regulation. One study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior inspected the yawning habits of 120 participants. The authors of the study found that yawning occurs less during winter because of cooler temperatures. When brain temperature gets disrupted, the act of inhaling fresh air can cool it down.
Some triggers of yawning include:
Fatigue – when you are tired, brain activity slows down, which leads to a drop in temperature.
Boredom – the absence of stimuli to the brain also leads to slow activity, which precipitates a drop in temperature.
Contagion – when you see someone else yawn, you will develop the need to do it yourself.
When your yawn, the muscles and tissues of your face and lungs get stretched out. The motion can help you stay awake. Moreover, the muscular contraction in the face shifts the blood toward your head, which increases your alertness.
Is yawning contagious?
Yawning is very contagious.
The mere fact of watching a video of someone yawning can trigger this phenomenon.
According to one study from Baylor University, yawning may be a sign to express empathy and bonding with others.
The study looked at 135 college students who underwent several personality tests and were recorded to see different facial movements. After analyzing the results, researchers concluded that people who were not empathetic were less likely to yawn after seeing someone else do it.
We should note that these results should not be generalized. Not catching a yawn does not mean the person has sociopathic tendencies.
Ways to stop yawning (Why do People Yawn)
1. Try deep breathing
One of the best ways to stop yawning is by doing some deep breathing exercises. In a 2007 study, researchers found that nasal breathing is effective at decreasing the contagion of yawning.
You should also work on improving your sleep quality, which will inadvertently lower the incidence of yawning.
Here are some quick tips on how to improve your sleep quality:
- Exercise more
- Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol
- Set up a sleep schedule and stick to it
- Create a comfortable sleep environment before bedtime
2. Get moving
Moving around relieves feelings of boredom, fatigue, and stress. These situations can all be a powerful stimulant of yawning.
When you move around, your heart rate and cardiac output also increase, which enhances blood circulation to the brain and muscles. As a result, many areas of the brain get activated, leading to alertness and hypervigilance.
If you are yawning because you are sleepy, you should nap or call it a night to maintain optimal brain function and prevent yawning.
Note that excessive yawning can originate from consuming too much coffee or going through an opiate detox.
3. Cool yourself down
Taking a walk outside or finding a place with a cooler temperature is another way you can stop yawning. However, if you cannot go outside, drinking some cool water should do the trick.
The key is to lower your brain temperature, which should automatically shut down the yawning reflex.
Can one yawn too much?
Generally speaking, yawning is a harmless sign. However, it is possible to yawn too much.
Researchers identified several medical conditions that trigger excessive yawning. For instance, a vasovagal reaction can stimulate persistent yawning.
When the vagus nerve interacts with the blood vessels due to a sleep disorder, yawning occurs. Note that other conditions, such as brain disorders, heart disease, and myocardial infarction (i.e., heart attack), can also stimulate yawning.
When should you see your doctor about yawning?
If you are experiencing unusual yawning with associated symptoms that interfere with your daily activities, it may be a good idea to visit your primary care physician or a sleep doctor.
Inform your doctor about the timeline of your yawning and any other symptoms you have (e.g., mind fog, pain, insomnia). Providing this information can facilitate the process of diagnosing the underlying condition and recommending the appropriate management plan.
The treatment options of excessive yawning
If you find yourself yawning too much, you should visit a doctor to diagnose and manage your condition.
Usually, the treatment varies depending on the cause of yawning.
Here are some general therapeutic approaches:
If your yawning is the result of a sleep disorder, your doctor will recommend some measures to improve sleep hygiene. For insomniac patients, sedative treatments may also be beneficial.
When your yawning stems as a side effect of a certain medication, your doctor will either lower the dose or change it altogether. Either way, you need to do a self-evaluation to see whether the new approach is working.
Finally, if yawning coincides with other health conditions, your doctor will address the specific disease. Typically, the treatment of the underlying condition also cures yawning.
Yawning is a universal phenomenon that all people (and animals) experience. There are numerous theories to explain the causes of yawning; however, the most probable one states that yawning serves to cool down brain temperature.
We hope that this article managed to highlight the important aspects of yawning and how it could give us some insight into your mental and physical health.
If you still have questions, concerns, or a personal anecdote about yawning, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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