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Does Yawning Mean You’re Tired?

april 9 yawningFor centuries, people have come up with different explanations for yawning. Some of these reasons for yawning are quite reasonable, like you being bored, for example.

However, others are far-fetched, such as your yawn means that your body needs more oxygen. Pinpointing the reason for yawning can be a challenge since there are some myths and varying causes.

Technically speaking, yawning is a reflex that involves concurrent air inhalation and eardrum stretching, followed by you exhaling.

Why Do You Yawn?

There are a number of reasons you may yawn. Some common reasons include:

    • Boredom
    • Sleepiness
    • You see another person yawn (called sympathetic yawning)
    • Anxiety
    • Reading or thinking about yawning
    • No apparent reason at all

Although yawning isn’t one of the primary symptoms of anxiety, yawning as a response to anxiety still happens. Anxiety can change your patterns of breathing and alter the way your body gets its oxygen. Hyperventilation often happens with anxiety. You may hyperventilate without realizing it. Excessive yawning can be a sign of chronic hyperventilation.

You may have heard the theory that you yawn because your brain requires more oxygen. This is not true. In fact, there isn’t any evidence that low oxygen levels in your brain, blood pressure, heart rate or bloodstream lead to yawning.

In truth, yawning has a lot to do with the thermoregulation of your brain, according to some studies. Researchers have found that an increase in your brain temperature can cause you to yawn.

One example by Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Daniel Neides, MD is to liken your brain to a computer. Your computer has a built-in cooling mechanism that keeps it from overheating. Your brain (your body’s computer) regulates its temperature through yawning.

This could explain why you tend to yawn more before you go to bed at night and early in the morning when you wake up. Before you go to sleep, your body temperatures and brain functions are high. When you fall asleep, the temperatures begin to decrease steadily and when you wake up, your body and brain temperatures begin to increase quickly, thus more yawning.

Should You Suppress a Yawn?

There isn’t any medical reason to suppress a yawn. In fact, it’s an almost uncontrollable activity in humans and you would be hard-pressed to stop one. This is not to say you can’t, but go ahead and try it. It’s almost impossible.

Is Yawning Contagious?

collective yawningYawning is most definitely contagious. In fact, typically when you see a person yawn, it triggers you to yawn. Even reading about yawning can cause you to yawn. One study even found that 50 percent of people who were shown videos of yawning, began yawning themselves.

Can You Yawn Too Much?

You yawn when you’re tired or bored. You yawn when you’re anxious. You yawn on a plane when there is pressure inside your head. Yawning is a natural action. However, excessive yawning can be a symptom of a bigger issue.

Yawning excessively could be a sign of disease. Although it’s not typically the primary symptom of a serious health condition, it can be an indication of something worse than being sleep deprived.

The National Institutes of Health states that excessive yawning has been shown in some people to be a reaction they have due to their vagus nerve, which can be an indication of a heart problem. It could also be a symptom of a brain problem, although this is very rare.

Epileptic patients have experienced bouts of yawning preceding an onset of seizures. Others who are suffering from migraines may yawn before their onset of pain. Excessive yawning could also signify that you are sleep deprived or have central nervous system damage.

Researchers are beginning to solve the mystery of yawning. And, although there are a number of different theories behind yawning, you now know that it’s probably not because your brain requires more oxygen.

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