Why Do We Yawn?

By james
Reviewed: Dr. Gromatzky
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Yawning is a natural reflex. It is something that we are able to do from birth and something that we will continue to do for the rest of our lives. Yawning is also something that we have little control over, with our bodies deciding to yawn whether we like it or not.

This often leads to the question of just what yawning is. We cant be completely sure, but there are a few suggestions that seem to make a lot of sense. Here is a selection of the possible reasons, of which one or more may well be true.


1. Bed Time

The most common reason for us to yawn us because we are tired, but why? What does it actually do? One potential reason for it is that, generally speaking, it is a good idea for us to have our body clocks synchronized. It is usually more convenient for families, for example, if they all wake at around the same time as each other.

Not only can yawning be a result of being tired, but it might also encourage other people around us to start feeling tired. It is quite effective but it also has its flaws. For example, if a colleague at work is yawning, it might cause you to start feeling tired at work also.


2. Bonding

Living in large civilizations as we do, it is important that people are able to bond with each other and show empathy. This is because civilizations would likely collapse otherwise because we need to be working together in order to make them work. This might be one of the reasons the yawning is contagious.

Yawning is so contagious that you have probably already yawned at least once when reading this article. It is thought that it can be a way of showing empathy with other people. Studies have shown that people on the autistic scale, who are less likely to recognize other peoples emotions, are less likely to yawn after seeing other people yawn.


3. Bored

We have all been there. We are stuck in a meeting or in a lecture and it is boring us to tears but we need to try to remain polite and/or professional as possible. This is partly because our brains become less active when we are bored, and this causes the temperature to drop.

We do not want to show that we are bored but we start yawning and this can reveal our boredom to others. We might try to hide it by covering our mouths with our hands but all too often it is noticed. If you do find yourself feeling bored, then try to really pay attention to what is being said and this might help wake you up a little.


4. Nervousness

If you are interviewing people for a job, or maybe overseeing a test, you might notice that some of the candidates are yawning. This might lead you to think that the candidate is bored, which would not be a good sign where interviews are concerned, but it might actually mean something quite different.

One reason that people yawn is because they are nervous. It is not uncommon for sports people to yawn before a major event, or for service people to yawn when attending a serious incident. It is thought that this is because yawning can help us to feel more alert, preparing us for whatever comes next.


5. Cooling the Brain

Our brain is a powerful organ the most powerful that we know of. It uses a lot of energy to operate at full effectiveness and it also generates a great deal of heat. Indeed, a large percentage of our body heat is lost through our heads, which is why it is often so important to wear a hat in cold weather.

Our brain can get too hot, though, and it is important to help cool it down when it does. Yawning is a mechanism that can help to keep the temperature down. Studies have shown that people will yawn more often in cooler weather, perhaps because the cooler air will be more effective at cooling our brains.


6. Waking Up

When we wake up in the morning, one of the first things we are likely to do is stretch. This helps to shake off any aches and pains in our muscles and helps to prepare our muscles for the day ahead. In addition, you may also find that one of the first things you do is to yawn.

Yawning in the morning may be a way to help kick-start our bodies and our brains into waking up. Yawning can help to stretch the lungs after hours of relatively shallow breathing and it can also allow for other muscles to be stretched.


7. Migraines

Migraines can be very unpleasant, leaving the patient more or less debilitated by the intense pain. In addition to the pain, patients might also find that they start to yawn more than usual, and there is likely to be a very good reason for this.

As mention before, yawning can help to cool the brain, helping to counter the effect of the migraine. If you are experiencing migraines that are difficult to bear, you should consider speaking with a doctor if you have not done so already.


8. On Guard

It was not that long ago, relatively speaking, that human beings lived in the wild. As such, many of our behaviors today are survival instincts, and this might include yawning. In the wild, we would not have had the security of sleeping behind locked doors.

This would have meant there was a need for some people to take it in shifts to do sentry duty to keep people safe, especially considering there would have been wild animals around. It might be that yawning was a way of signaling to others that a sentry is tired and that somebody else should take their place.


9. Surfactant

Surfactant is a type of fluid that is produced by our lungs so that we can breath. In the lungs, the fluid is secreted by tiny sacs of air that are known as alveoli. These sacs of air are very important to us because they help us to absorb oxygen from the air that we breathe.

Surfactant in the lungs helps to keep pulmonary tissue elastic and reduces the surface tension of pulmonary fluids. This helps to protect our lungs, ensuring that we can continue to breathe without difficulty. It is thought that yawning helps to keep the surface of the lungs covered with this important fluid.


10. How to Stop

Yawning can be embarrassing in some situations, while it might also be considered to be rude. It is an involuntary action, though, meaning that we have no direct control over it. There are, however, some things that you can do to prevent it from happening.

If you do keep on yawning, you can try breathing deeply through your nose to help ensure your body has sufficient oxygen. You can also try to move around, maybe go for a short walk, to get your body and brain active again. Yawning might also be as a result of being too hot, so cooling yourself down may be able to prevent you yawning.


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