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What Does Research Say About Why We Yawn?

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All human beings yawn. So do animals, especially the vertebrate ones. It is one of the most relaxing activities man dies as it provides several advantages. When it comes, you don't have to stifle it. Instead, you should let it out. 


Several reasons account for why this involuntary activity takes place. Whether it is to show signs of tiredness or to indicate a boring task, it happens for a reason. In this article, we shall examine what some research theories say about why we yawn.

What is Yawning?

Yawning entails opening the mouth involuntarily, breathing in deeply, and filling the lungs with air. It is a natural occurrence that responds to triggers such as tiredness, boredom, or sleepiness. While some yawns happen within a short time, others happen for a longer period. Some of the symptoms that accompany this activity include stretching, watery eyes, and heaving sighs. 

Do Animals Yawn?

The tricky part about yawning is that it doesn't only happen to humans. It also happens to animals. Cats, snakes, dogs, fish, birds, and other animals are examples of animals that yawn. Most times, they are always triggered after performing an activity. In a publication by BBC Science Focus Magazine, reports show that some penguins yawn as a result of their courtship rituals. Meanwhile, snakes yawn after having a nice good meal. As for Siamese fighting fish, they do yawn to show aggression. Different occasions account for why animals yawn.

Why We Yawn

Several reasons indicate why humans and animals yawn. Here, we shall examine some research theories that support the reason why human yawns. 

  • Yawning is Contagious

Yawning is a contagious activity. Whether we see it, hear it, or even think about it, the chances that we may yawn increases as it is a common phenomenon among humans. Besides, pieces of evidence have shown that it also happens to animals, especially non-human primates, snakes, cats, birds, and domesticated dogs. 


In a study conducted by experts in psychology, research shows that yawns are contagious in humans until early childhood. Until that period, triggers caused by psychological and social factors make yawning contagious. Psychological in the sense that by hearing or thinking about it, one may eventually do it. As for social factors, it depends on the level of your bonding with an individual. This has to do with the level of empathy you have for others and how you interact with them. 


Hence, you are more likely to yawn among your family and friends than a yawn in front of a stranger. This doesn't apply to humans alone but also to animals. Perhaps, that is why yawning tends to occur more between in-group members than out-group ones. 

  • Yawning Cools Down the Brain

The brain is the CPU of the body. Nobody can underestimate its powerful function that keeps the body moving. Due to its ever-working state, there are chances for its temperature to increase. As a result, you may need something to cool it down. That is where yawning comes in. 


The brain's temperature is influenced by three factors - the rate of blood flowing to the brain, the temperature of the blood, and the amount of heat generated by the brain due to exercise or any strenuous activity. 


When the brain generates more heat, there is a higher tendency for you to yawn. By opening your mouth, you produce pressure to rush some blood away from the brain through the blood vessels. After that, fresh blood comes in and mixes with the cool air produced by the lung during yawning. In other words, you force the warmer blood away and replenish it with cool blood from around the lung area. By doing this, you cool down your brain, increase arousal, and improve mental efficiency.

  • Yawning is a sign of a wake-up call

Yawning is a sign of a wake-up call. Since you have been lying motionless for about right hours, you will need something to alert you. Yawning seems to be the most suitable option for that. It keeps you alert, refreshes your mind, and ultimately engages the lungs. Although it is an involuntary action, you may find yourself doing this every morning when you wake up. That single motion stretches your lungs and tissues. Besides, it allows you to consciously stretch the upper part of your body, particularly the muscles and joints. 


Regardless of when it occurs, every yawn is quite significant and different. The one that occurs before you go to bed indicates fatigue from your daily activities. Meanwhile, the one that occurs right after you wake up is quite different. It prepares the body and hastens alertness by forcing blood into your face and brain.


Yawning is an involuntary action that you do occasionally. It is healthy and you don't have to shuffle it. However, when you notice that it is getting excessive, you may need to consult your doctor for treatment.

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