The theories of yawning

Even thinking about yawning can cause you to do it. It’s something everybody does, including animals, and you shouldn’t try to stifle it because when you yawn, it’s because your body needs it. It’s one of the most contagious, uncontrollable actions a body does.

There are many theories as to why people yawn. One popular theory is that yawning helps your body bring in more oxygen. But this theory has been mostly debunked. Keep reading to see what current research suggests yawning says about you, your brain temperature, and your potential for empathy.

Causes of yawning, even if you’re not tired

The most scientifically backed theory about why we yawn is brain temperature regulation. A 2014 study published in Physiology & Behavior looked at the yawning habits of 120 people and found that yawning occurred less during the winter. If the brain’s temperature gets too far outside of the norm, inhaling air can help cool it down.

You yawn when you’rebecause
tiredyour brain is slowing down, causing its temperature to drop
boredyour brain isn’t feeling stimulated and starts to slow down causing a temperature drop
seeing someone else yawnwhen you’re in the same environment as them, you’re exposed to the same temperature

You may also find yourself yawning more if you get migraines. During a migraine, your blood clots in your brain. Yawning helps to cool your brain down from that clotting.

Another reason you may yawn is because the body wants to wake itself up. The motion helps stretch the lungs and their tissues, and it allows the body to flex its muscles and joints. It may also force blood toward your face and brain to increase alertness.

Is yawning contagious?

Yawning is definitely contagious. Even videos of people doing it can trigger a yawning session. Try watching the video below and see if you end up yawning. We’ll tell you what it might mean after.

breathing exercise

If you did catch a yawn, then according to a study from Baylor University, it’s a good thing. You’re showing empathy and bonding.

The study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, looked at 135 college students, their personalities, and how they reacted to different facial movements. The results showed that the less empathy a person had, the less likely he or she would yawn after seeing someone else yawn.

It’s important to note that these results can’t be generalized. Not “catching” a yawn isn’t evidence for psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies.

Ways to stop yawning

1. Try deep breathing

If you feel yourself yawning excessively, try deep breathing exercises through your nose. Your body may need more oxygen. One study also found that nasal breathing decreased contagious yawning completely in their research.

For better quality sleep

  • Exercise more.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Build a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment before bedtime.

2. Get moving

Breaking up a routine can also help stimulate your brain. Feelings of tiredness, boredom, and stress tend to make people yawn more. Excessive yawning may also stem from taking in too much caffeine and going through an opiate detox.

3. Cool yourself down

You can also try taking a walk outside or finding a space with a cooler temperature. If you don’t have time to do this, drink some cool water or eat a chilled snack, such as fruits or baby carrots.

Read more: How to make a cold compress »

Should you see a doctor for yawning ‘too much’?

You should see a doctor if you feel like you’re yawning more than usual and experiencing additional symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day activities. Tell your doctor when the yawning started and about other symptoms, such as mind fog, pain in certain areas, or even lack of sleep. This information can help your doctor diagnose the underlying condition and make treatment recommendations based on individual needs.

Takeaway

There are many theories behind why we yawn. Recent studies and research suggest it’s a way our body regulates brain temperature. You may also find yourself yawning more if you didn’t get enough sleep and feel tired.

Read our tips on sleep hygiene for better quality sleep here.