Why does a person yawn?


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516 points

Yawning is necessary just like any other physiological phenomenon. It is an unconditional reflex that has various benefits.

Saturate the blood with oxygen

You usually yawn when ”there is nothing to breather.” For instance when you are in a stuffy room. As you walk on the street there is fresh air so you will not have the urge to yawn. Yawning is a sign that there is oxygen deprivation, and therefore this deep lingering breath fills the brain with oxygen.

When you wake up in the morning you yawn because of the same reason. If you don’t want to fall asleep, you usually yawn then inhale a sharp influx of oxygen. Moreover, fresh air cools the body making you want to sleep less.

Dealing with stress

You may also yawn when you are nervous about an important even. As a result of stress, we involuntarily hold our breath even without noticing it. Thus the brain sends a signal to the body to yawn when the oxygen levels drop.

Yawning also helps in relaxing the muscles of the face which serves to relieve the psychological load.

Getting rid of congestion in the ears

There us normally pressure inside and outside the year which is often atmospheric. However, at high altitude like when you are in an aircraft, the pressure is lower than that in the ear. Yawning thus helps to balance the pressure outside and inside the ear.

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Why is yawning contagious?

When we watch someone else yawn, mirror neurons are activated in our heads. They are responsible for empathy, understanding other people’s reactions and learning through imitation. Mirror neurons are the mechanism of socialization laid done by evolution. Yawning is also contagious because of the cortical motor areas that are responsible for controlling, planning and performing movements.

Everyone has a different susceptibility to other people’s yawns. You only react to those who are close to you including strangers. We may also yawn when we look at animals or when watching photos or videos of people yawning. Receptive people are also more likely to yawn even when they read about it.

Children who are under the age of six and people with autism disorder are almost not susceptible to contagious yawning.

Is yawning a symptom of a disease?

Yawning frequently without any apparent reason ca be a sign of a disease. Some of them are diabetes as well as when glucose does not enter the cells of the body and is not converted to energy. For this reason you will feel tired and yawn often.

Frequent yawning and sleepiness can also be a sign of apnoea. When dreaming, a person with this disease will stop breathing for a few seconds, even a minute and the lack of oxygen will make them yawn often.

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Yawning constantly can also be a sign of multiple sclerosis, aortic aneurysm, depression and hormonal disorders. If yawning is accompanied is accompanied by symptoms diabetes, apnoea or other mentioned diseases, it is advisable that you consult a doctor who will examine you fully. However, you should not self diagnose and worry about it. Most often people yawn due to fatigue, suffocation, stress, boredom or as a result of the functioning of motor neurons.


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Cornelius A.

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