Everyone yawns, including adults, infants, and even certain animals.. Many theories have been put out by researchers to explain why this is happening.
Yawning is commonly linked to feelings of exhaustion or boredom. Studying sea lions and other mammals shows that they yawn when they are resting or sleepy, too. Sneezing may play a significant role in our health and social interactions, according to recent studies.
Why Do We Yawn?
Our yawns are still a mystery to scientists. Yawns may help the brain wake up or cool down, according to some scientists. This is because yawning is thought to have some physiological function. It is also claimed that yawning serves a social role, allowing people to convey that they are drowsy or bored, or anxious.
Theory #1: Yawning Wakes Up the Brain During Times of Boredom or Tiredness
Yawning, according to one idea, may assist keep the brain alert when doing something monotonous or inert.
When you yawn, your facial and neck muscles have to move. Carotid artery stimulation and the subsequent release of wake-promoting hormones are thought to occur as a result of this movement. Yawns are thought to transport brain fluid away from the resting network and into an active state, according to theories advanced by experts.
When you yawn, your skin’s electrical conductivity rises, much like when you take a caffeine hit. A similar physiological reaction may indicate that both coffee and melatonin have the same purpose.
According to this notion, yawning is more likely to occur during certain types of activities. If you are driving, watching television, or attending a lecture, you are more likely to yawn than if you are doing something more active. They are less prone to yawn if they are doing anything busy, like cooking or talking.
Theory #2: Yawning Helps the Brain Cool Down
Yawning may help keep the brain’s core temperature stable. In order to remove heat more quickly, the muscles of the face contract and relax during a yawn. When people yawn, their eyes may tear up, releasing heat as they do so. A thorough inhalation of fresh air might also help calm the brain.
Preliminary investigations on humans and animals have offered evidence for the thermoregulation idea, but further research is needed. A study of parakeets found that they yawned more frequently as the ambient temperature rose, particularly as it approached their body temperature. Participants in the study were asked to sit through films of real-life yawning experiments while either a warm or an ice pack was applied to their foreheads. Both groups of people were more likely to fall asleep while watching videos when they were wrapped in warm blankets and less likely to fall asleep when they were wrapped in cold blankets.
Another study found that altering the temperature of the neck has an effect on yawning. Warm, cool or room temperature packs were placed on the carotid artery in the neck by participants. When the timer went off, they watched a film of individuals yawning for five minutes before taking it off again. They yawned three times more frequently when they used the heated pack.
Thermoregulatory theory of yawning has also been supported by research into seasonal fluctuations in ambient temperature. For instance, in one study, participants were asked to self-report how often they yawned in the winter and summer months. During the hotter summer months, individuals reported yawning substantially more frequently, according to the study’s findings. This correlation stayed up even when other variables, such as humidity or sleep, were taken into account.
Yawning may help alleviate symptoms in people with diseases that raise their core body temperature, such as multiple sclerosis, anxiety, or a stroke. It’s possible that yawning excessively is a natural response to overheating in certain situations.
Theory #3: Contagious Yawning Is Linked to Empathy Skills
Yawning is contagious, according to most people. Individuals yawn when they see or hear other people yawn. Even reading about yawning or thinking about yawning can cause a yawn.
According to the contagious nature of yawning, it could be used by humans and other mammals to communicate. When a person sees another person yawn, their brain activity increases in areas related to empathy and social conduct.
People are more likely to yawn when another person yawns if they are close to that person, according to research. This means that when an acquaintance or stranger yawn, the person is more inclined to do the same. It is not until the age of 4 or 5 that a person is able to grasp the feelings of other people and hence become prone to contagious yawning.
According to several studies, contagious yawns are linked to increased levels of empathy. People with mental health issues, such as schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorder, appear to be less contagious than those without these issues. Even while weariness appears to play the most significant part in the yawn reaction, those who are more self-centered and callous are less likely to respond to yawns from others.
Yawning has also been investigated in the animal kingdom. Contagious yawning begins to appear in dogs at the age of seven months, when they are capable of recognizing and responding to the emotional state of others. Dogs, unlike humans, aren’t affected by how close they are to the person who is yawning when they yawn. Some scientists are now doubting the hypothesis that yawning is connected to empathy in light of this discovery.
Other Theories About Why We Yawn
Your eustachian tubes, which connect your throat to your ear, open when you yawn. To alleviate the pressure buildup in the ear caused by a plane landing, this action can be taken to lessen this discomfort. That being said, scientists don’t think this is the primary reason we yawn because swallowing accomplishes the same thing.
People yawn, according to an old belief, because their brains aren’t getting enough oxygen. The theory was that when the blood was depleted of oxygen, yawning helped replenish it with fresh oxygen for the brain. Studies have revealed that yawning does not increase as a person breathes in more carbon dioxide, so experts have abandoned this notion.
Is yawning contagious?
Yawning is a contagious occurrence, to say the least. You may even get a yawn out of watching footage of people doing it! See if you fall asleep while watching the video below. After that, we’ll explain what it could indicate.
According to a Baylor University study, catching a yawn is a positive thing since it shows empathy and closeness.
Personality and Individual Differences presented a study that examined the reactions of 135 college students to a variety of facial gestures.
According to the findings, people are less likely to yawn when they witness someone else yawn because they have less empathy.
To be clear, these findings cannot be generalized. Psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies aren’t demonstrated by the inability to catch a yawn.
How Much Yawning Is Too Much?
Some experts consider it abnormal to yawn more than three times in a 15-minute period if the explanation is not clear. There is no formal definition of excessive yawning. Yells are often heard 28 times every day, twice in the morning and once at night, when people are getting ready for bed. It is also deemed abnormal when a person yawns in the absence of exhaustion, boredom, contagiousness, or other conventional indications.
Damage to the areas of the brain that control yawning may be the cause of excessive yawning, according to this study. If you’re yawning excessively, you may have a neurological issue, such as:
- Neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome
- One of the following conditions is possible:
Certain medicines, such as antidepressants, opioids, dopaminergic drugs, and benzodiazepines, might produce yawning in rare circumstances. Additionally, people who suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia or OSA are more likely to experience excessive yawning.
Ways to stop yawning
1. Try deep breathing
Try deep breathing exercises through your nose if you find yourself yawning a lot. Oxygen may be needed by your body at this time. Nasal breathing was also found to reduce contagious yawning to zero in a 2007 study.
2. Get moving
To keep your brain active, you can break up your daily routine. People tend to yawn more when they’re feeling fatigued, bored, or stressed, according to this study. Taking too much caffeine or going through an opiate detox can also cause excessive yawning.
3. Cool yourself down
Going for a walk outside or finding a place with a lower temperature might also help you cope with the heat If you’re pressed for time, opt for a cold beverage or a snack like fruit or small carrots.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Yawning
When you see someone else yawn, or when you’re bored, hungry, or agitated, you’re likely to yawn too. If you’re yawning more than normal and don’t know why, make an appointment with your primary care physician. You should also see a doctor if you find yourself yawning a lot because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before or if you’re feeling tired all the time. In order to get to the bottom of why you’re yawning, your doctor may ask you questions or prescribe tests if necessary.
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