Why do we Yawn?


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One of the most mysterious reactions that our body gives is YAWNING. Everybody, be it a small child or an old person, yawns for a reason or the other. In fact, there has been a startling revelation that babies can yawn even in the womb.

Even animals do yawn, you must have seen your pet opening its mouth wide open, inhaling the air, stretching the facial muscles and then relaxing it all together. This act has perplexed scientists for many decades. An adult can yawn nearly 20 times a day and that goes up to nearly 7500 per year, each yawn taking 5-6 seconds of our time for complete satisfaction.

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There are many theories floating in the scientific arena which propose reasons for yawning. One of the most anticipated causes is that yawning helps us inhale more of the oxygen and thus, relaxes us. But this theory is ousted over the time. And scientists are finding a better explanation for this action of our body.

Not only the reason for yawning but various other questions remain unanswered that revolve around yawning. For e.g. in what situations do we yawn? What is the function of yawning? Why do animals yawn? Why is it contagious? And why we can’t suppress it when we start yawning?

Yawning is most commonly perceived to denote a person’s tiredness or sleepy condition. But, it’s not always these cases. Some other situations that can make you yawn are:

Situations that make us yawn:

  1. Alertness: While you yawn, you tend to get more of the oxygen and so your heart gets more work to do. In such a situation your heartbeat rises (although it’s unnoticeable to you), and hence this rise of heartbeat indicates towards alertness rather than tiredness sometimes.
  2. Change of state: When we change our actions and body state, this is generally a way of our body to realize the shift. That is why we yawn when we stand after sitting for a long time when we sit after standing for a long time.
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  1. Sleep patterns: Humans yawn not only when they feel sleepy (i.e. before hitting the bed at night to sleep) but they can yawn even instantly after they wake up. Yawning also makes people feel refreshed.
  2. Boredom: Remember your history classes that reminded of your sleeping bed and that almost made you fall asleep? That is not your fault, it’s boredom that made you yawn and get relaxed. Yawning is also result of getting bored.
  3. Reading: Are you a bibliophile? Then you must be very well aware of the situations when you were very much interested in a particular book but you had to fold the page and listen to your yawning signal. Reading makes you yawn the most even when you find the text to be interesting.
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  1. For cooling down the brain: Yawning stretches your face muscles, earlobes, pushing more oxygen in our body and increasing heartbeats rate. It causes blood to circulate through the body at a faster pace and so cooling down your mind.
  2. When you see someone else yawning: Contagious? Yes, of course, yawning is contagious. When you see someone else yawning, your brain feels the same level of the environment. You feel yourself to be exposed to the same temperature and surroundings that make you feel yawning just like the person did. A more interesting fact is that, even if you imagine a person yawning, you might get the yawning sensation.

One of the other reason as argued by researchers is that this reflexive action shows empathy of a person towards others. A study revealed that less empathetic person would not yawn as much as an empathetic person would if showing yawning pictures and videos.

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“Then what makes animals yawn?”

Apart from your pet dogs and cats, reptiles like snakes and aquatic animals like fishes also do yawn. Why? For one of the same reasons as humans do: to cool down their brain. Cerebral circulation slows down during an inactive phase and that makes brain to get warm up. Yawning increases blood flow to the brain and so relaxing its veins and nerves.

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Although yawning doesn’t count for any serious issue but it’s quite undesirable many times. Like if you are sitting right in front of your boss in a meeting and you got a desperate feel to yawn, of course, you won’t be yawn ready.

So, are there any ways to ignore yawning? Try these-

  1. Deep breathing

The simple function of your yawning is to provide more oxygen to the brain and body. If you are able to provide this oxygen through breathing then you don’t need to yawn. This can also make you yawn less even if you see someone else yawning.

  1. Break the cycle

Yawning increases as you keep sticking to your daily routine. Try to break this monotonous cycle. Add some new fun activities to your work or delete some useless activities from your daily job. Kill tiredness and boredom, to avoid yawning.

  1. Keep yourself in an active environment

Don’t provide too much comfort to your body in your work area. Warm temperature, light lighting, and relaxed atmosphere makes you feel asleep and thus increasing your yawning counts.

There are many theories that revolve around yawning and its functions. Researchers keep on investigating the new ones with new studies and experiments. While the reason for yawing for one person can be different from others, the above stated are the general ones. It’s quite possible that you might feel like yawning while you are reading out this article only just by looking at the word “yawn”. Are you feeling so?

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