What Causes Yawning? The Urge to Yawn
Do animals yawn for the same reasons as humans?
What Causes Yawning?
Thanks to Simone Smith for asking the intriguing question, "What triggers yawning?"
Did you ever wonder what causes yawning? Humans don't have an exclusive on yawning. Animals, birds and reptiles yawn, too! Yawning seems to occur when we are bored, tired or too warm, but the irresistible impulse to yawn can occur when we see other people yawn. Sometimes just thinking about yawning can make us want to yawn! (Are you yawning, yet?)
In high school, a friend and I were in a rather boring class. To keep ourselves entertained, my friend would choose inopportune moments to face me and give out a huge yawn. Before I knew it, I was yawning uncontrollably, and anyone who was looking at either one of us was yawning, too! I'm sure this didn't inspire the teacher to be more interesting, but it did set off a few giggles in the classroom.
Facts about yawning
- The average yawn lasts only 6 seconds.
- Contagious yawning is a way of showing empathy for another person. It is thought to be a way of keep a group alert to danger. In the case of my friend, it alerted the group to boring.
- All vertebrates yawn, but not all have the contagious yawn response. Try it with your dog...will he yawn if he sees you yawn?
- Yawning can raise heart rate up to 30%.
- You don't have to see a yawn to want to yawn. Reading about yawning or hearing someone yawn on the telephone can trigger a yawn. Blind and deaf people will respond to contagious yawning!
- 55% of all people yawn within five minutes of seeing someone else yawn.
- Autistic and schizophrenic people are not contagious to yawning.
- Hot brain? Yawning may be triggered when the brain temperature needs cooling.
- Sleep deprivation and fatigue increase deep brain temperature, so yawning to cool off the brain when you are tired makes sense.
- Infants and young children yawn, but are not contagious yawners. They won't yawn in response to seeing someone else yawn.
- One school of thought has it that yawning is triggered when glucose in the brain is reduced. So yawning may be a result of hunger.
- It has been said that yawning is caused by the body's need for more oxygen, but the flaw here is that yawning does not bring as much oxygen into the system as normal respiration.
- Activation of certain chemicals in the brain can increase the frequency of yawning.
- Excessive yawning can be an indication of certain diseases like cardiovascular disease, electrolysis imbalance, hormonal imbalance or a side effect of medication.
- Dehydration can cause yawning.
The Art of Pandiculation - Yawning!
Do you Pandiculate?
What? No, I never!
...or do you just yawn?
Well, maybe you'd admit it if you knew that pandiculation is the act of yawning, contracting and stretching muscles simultaneously!
This self portrait by Joseph Ducreux is a perfect picture of someone in the process of pandiculation.
How to hide or suppress a yawn
Yawning can take you by surprise and pop up at the most inopportune times. It's fine to yawn when you wake up in the morning or before going to bed, but you really don't want to yawn at a job interview, a funeral or when your spouse is telling you about his or her day. We can't always avoid those triggers that cause us to yawn, so what can we do when yawning is just not appropriate?
Here are a few tips on how to hide a yawn or suppress a yawn:
- Drink a glass of water to help suppress a yawn. Dehydration can cause an increase in yawning.
- Pretend you dropped something on the floor and let the yawn out as you pick it up.
- Cover your mouth with your hands to try to hide the yawn.
- Pretend you heard a noise behind you and turn your head. Yawn quick while you're facing away.
- Try holding your breath until it passes.
- Clench your jaw and keep your mouth shut until the feeling passes. (Don't kid yourself, this fools no one!)
- If it looks like someone else is going to yawn, look the other way. You know yawing is contagious!
But there are so many other things that make me yawn!
Let's face it, people, we all have triggers that make us yawn or make us wish we could yawn because a yawn would be more interesting than what we're doing at the moment.
Here are 25 things that cause me to yawn!
- Political advertisements on TV.
- Hearing about your politics (unless they are the same as mine).
- PBS fund drives.
- Hearing about your operation.
- A monologue in a monotone.
- Some people (you don't even know who you are, do you?) make me yawn just at the sight of them!
- Watching a friends' home movies of their kids' school plays.
- Hearing about your pregnancy.
- Hearing about your 26 hours in labor. (My 26 hours of labor where SO much more interesting!)
- Talking about budgets when outgo is more than income.
- Talking about how to remove stains from carpets.
- Hearing about all the cute things that your niece/child/grandchild did last weekend.
- Seeing someone yawn.
- Hearing someone yawn.
- Reading about someone yawning.
- Curling up in front of a fire alone.
- Shopping for clothes for my girlfriend but not for myself.
- Coming home from a shopping trip when someone else is driving.
- Knowing that there is a sink full of dishes waiting when I get home from shopping.
- Listening to someone talk non-stop for 45 minutes about how she hates her life.
- Daylight Savings Time.
- Changing back to Standard Time.
- Reading a boring book in bed.
- Hearing about how you went off your diet.
- Reading this article. (Oops! it must be seeing the word "yawn" so many times!)
What makes you yawn?
What is most likely to make you yawn?
Are you a yawner? Do you yawn whenever you see a friend yawn, or do yawn just reading about yawning? Have any good solutions for suppressing unwanted yawns?
I'd love to hear your comments!