What is Yawning?

Dog Yawning

Source

Is Yawning Contagious?

Did you ever wonder why you yawn? Then, if you are with someone else and yawn, the chances are they will yawn also. Is yawning infectious? Really, the answer is yes; it often is very infectious. When we see someone yawn or even hear them yawn over the phone, we often yawn also. Do you ever yawn when on an airplane to relieve ear discomfort? This is a benefit of yawning. Contagious yawning may be a way to keep us alert.

Essentially, we are all the same when it comes to instinctive behaviors and yawning is one of those behaviors. Scientists really do not know very much about yawning, except that it is an involuntary action. Robert Provine, a developmental neuroscientist at the University of Maryland has proven that 11 week old fetuses yawn, so it is a normal human reflex and age is not a cause of yawning.

Respiratory System

wickimedia commons
wickimedia commons

What is Yawning?

From a physical standpoint, yawning causes us to open our mouths wide and take in a deep breath. Other parts of the body are also involved in the yawn. The jaw drops open to allow more air to enter into the lungs, the abdominal muscles flex pushing the diaphragm down. The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped skeletal muscle extending across the bottom of the rib cage, which actually separates the thoracic cavity with the abdominal cavity and is moving with each breath.Your heart rate may rise by 30 percent during yawning. It is also a way to stretch the muscles. Did you know that yawning can also be a signof sexual arousal?

Boredom, drowsiness and fatigue are known to bring on a yawn. We often cover our mouths when yawning in public to not offend another individual. Yawning is natural, and the facts are, scientists do not know for sure why we yawn.

Owl Yawning

Source

Saberttooth Tiger and Caveman

iclipart.com
iclipart.com

Excessive Yawning

An individual that suddenly has excessive yawning, even when tired, can indicate a serious problem. It may be caused by what is known as a vasovagal reaction. This reaction happens when the vagus nerve (this nerve runs from the brain to the heart and stomach) interacts with some of the blood vessels. This reaction can indicate an impending heart attack, a sleeping disorder to bleeding around the large aorta artery. It is appropriate to consult a physician if you have been yawning much more frequently for no apparent reason.

Why do We Yawn?

The most common theories include:

  1. There is a physiological theory that states a yawn is induced to remove a build-up of carbon dioxide in our bodies by breathing in more oxygen. This theory might explain why we yawn in groups in a closed in class room for instance. This poses the question, "Why don’t we yawn during exercise?" We certainly need more oxygen during exercise. Actually, this theory has also been tested by Robert Provine. Giving people more oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide did not prevent yawning at all in his studies.
  2. Then, there is the evolution theory. Some people believe that our ancestors in the early ages yawned to intimidate others by showing their teeth. That seems a bit bizarre, but a theory none-the-less.
  3. Yawning may also be a territorial reflex. Yawning often makes the body look bigger as arms are outstretched and the mouth is open. When humans witness an animal yawning the first thing they notice is the animal’s teeth and any threat.
  4. The boredom theory seems to be a more relevant one. While we do tend to yawn more when we are tired or bored, this theory does not explain why Olympians yawn right before competing in their athletic event. Also, why do dogs yawn right before they attack? I do not think they are bored.
  5. Another more recent theory states people yawn more when their brains are warmer. Then, it would seem they are yawning to cool off their brains. This theory was also tested by having subjects breathe through their noses. They also pressed hot and cold compresses against their foreheads to try to cool down their brains. Cool brains think more clearly, which is reason this theory is being tested. Dr.Gallup of the State University of New York in Albany tested this theory. The subjects of this experiment were all in one room while others looking through a one way mirror and counted the number of yawns. The results of this study found that yawning was almost eliminated for those breathing through their noses with cool compresses on their foreheads. Dr.Gallup surmised yawning keeps us more alert.

Seal Yawning

Source

All God’s Creatures Yawn

All vertebrates, including fish, lizards and snakes yawn, however, only human beings, chimps and dogs experience contagious yawns.

Another study explored why yawning might be contagious and they linked it to empathy or a form of social bonding. Kids do not experience contagious yawns until approximately four years of age. Children with autism seldom yawn, particularly in the more severe cases. Scientists think the study of yawning might help their understanding of developmental disorders

Sleep Music to Relax and Rewind - "The Path" or to Yawn

Yawning Survey

Do you find yourself yawning when others yawn?

  • I yawn frequently when I'm tired or bored.
  • I seldom yawn and have not noticed if I yawn when others yawn.
  • I almost always yawn when I see someone else yawn.
  • I find I yawn more frequently when I am hot?
  • My yawning habits are best described by 1 and 3.
  • My yawning habits are best described by 1, 3 and 4.
See results without voting

Short Summary

Now that I have yawned for the past hour while writing this hub, I hope that each of you stayed awake and enjoyed this information about yawning. We know it is natural to yawn and perhaps it is good to not get too overheated.

© 2012 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 67 comments

Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Interesting! And is true, I yanw with someone on the other line or through Skype. The theory of the evolution seems to be more aceptable. We all yawn in public with a domino effect, like collective hyenas, but we do it individually like you said. Well researched and was a fun read Pam. Have a nice one!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very interesting information, Pamela! I somehow did not know most of this, but I found it fascinating. Good job and shared!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I don't yawn that much but I do notice when others do. When I'm tired I usually I try to drink some water and move around. But I agree yawning is contagious.

I didn't know that lack of yawning in children is a sign of autism but seeing it as a social behavior puts it in perspective.

I learned a lot in this hub and enjoyed reading it.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Lord, I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I thought it was a fun topic. Thanks so much for your comments.

Billy, I didn't know most of it either until I did the research this morning. I appreciate your comments.

Alecia, I'm glad the hub was informative for you and thank you so much for your comments.


Trinity M profile image

Trinity M 4 years ago

Interesting hub Pamela :) Funny how we usually know so little about something we do all the time; right now I am definitely tired and yawning (I promise it’s not your hub!). Voted up and interesting.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Trinity, I'm glad to know its not my hub, but I am also tired and yawning. It's been a busy day. Thanks so much for your comments.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 4 years ago

Wonderful Hub Pamela. It's not always over Boredom, as you have pointed out. Very Interesting as well as Entertaining Hub, thanks for sharing and the teachable moment.


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

I think I fall into the category of only yawning when I dead tired. Great information, especially on the excessive yawning and signs that it might be something more serious. Great hub, Pamela! Voted up and sharing.


eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas

Pamela, great hub as usual, love the dog yawning. This is very informational for many people who don't understand (including healthcare pros) the reasons for yawning. Your theories described are amazing, and I absolutely learned something from your writing. Thanks and voted up!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

b. Malin, It is good to know its not always boredom. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Terrye, I think those are good signs to be know for all of us. I appreciate your comments and have a nice evening..


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

eHealer, I am glad you found the hub informative. I love that dog picture also. Thanks for your comments.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

lol...the power of suggestion is amazing. I yawned through the whole hub even though I found it thoroughly fascinating. This was very creative and informative. Good job! Voted up.


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Great helpful hub. I enjoyed reading and seeing your funny photos.

Voted up helpful and interesting, Joyce.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Linda, The power of suggestion really is amazing. It was fun to do the research of this hub and I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

writer, I am so glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Excellent hub, Pamela. You have written a very insightful piece on yawning. I yawn #1 and when others yawn, I do so too. I just love thos images of the animals yawning, so cute. God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

So my wife was right? Just joking, Thank you for this interesting report.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Pamela, I find myself yawning when I'm sleepy. Interesting topic to choose to write about. And you did an excellent job of it.

Voting up and interesting. Sharing this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Faith, I thought the animals were adorable also. I appreciate your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

MHatter, I'm glad you found the hub interesting and thanks for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

rajan Jolly, I am glad you found this article interesting. Thank you for your comments.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Pamela great hub and very interesting information on yawning, some i did not know before. I did not yawn once reading this hub !

Vote up and more !!!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Kashmir, Glad to know you didn't yawn. :-) I appreciate your comments and glad you found the hub interesting.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

This was so fascinating, Pamela, that I did not yawn from boredom or ennui or the need for more oxygen even one single solitary time. Promise!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

That's interesting. I'll have to try yawning when I need to be more alert. I'm still trying to figure out why a fetus yawns. I thought a fetus gets oxygen from its mother and is encased in water.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

drbj, So glad to hear you kept alert while reading. :-) Thanks for the comments.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

A very interesting hub on yawning....I learned a ton of things while reading this hub. It does make you wonder why some animals and some athletes yawn right before an activity...it certainly is not that they are bored (as you wrote)....but it does make you think.....I think the warm brain theory seems like a good one.

I remember watching a Mythbuster episode where they tried to get people to yawn.....by having people yawning on purpose....if memory serves me correctly...they could not prove or disapprove the myth.

Voted up and awesome.....job well done.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Coge, Mythbuster has some interesting topics but I must have missed that one. I think the warm brain theory is the most logical but I think they still have some research to do also. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks so much for your comments.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Funny I just read another hub on yawning...are we trying to tell ourselves something? I think most people are curious about yawning because we don't know what really causes it.

I love the thought of showing your teeth or making yourself bigger by yawning...I'll have to see if anyone is intimidated the next time I yawn ;) Thank you for all this information.

Voter this up, useful and very interesting.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

What a good post on a common habit. I find myself yawning when others yawn. It's just one of those things that you do -- now I can see why. Thanks the share on this very well done hub of information.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

tillsontitan, I was curious about those two theories also. Thanks for your comments and I appreciate your stopping by to read by hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Dianna, I'm glad you found the hub interesting and I appreciate your comments.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Pam,

I have yawned from start to finish, yet I was fascinated with your organization and presentation of this content. I think I am very impressionable...?

Wonderful work! Voted UP and all across! Hugs, Maria


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Maria, I think most of us are impressionable when it comes to yawning. Thank you for your comments. Hugs.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

Pam, excellent work. we know we yawn but why do we??? great topic.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Mzl, Good question and I think they have a lot to learn. Thanks so much for your comments.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Reading this hub made me yawn. Not the article, which was very interesting...it was probably the 4 1/2 hours of yard work that I did today. I'm tired! Up votes and sharing.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 3 years ago from Northern, California

Pam, I must have yawned 5 times during your hub! Certainly NOT out of boredom, but rather reflex...it was very strange. The simple suggestion of a yawn has such an effect! Great information here. Fascinating that only chimps, dogs, and humans experience contagious yawning. Up and sharing this one! Hope this finds you doing well, ma'am.

HubHugs~


Rufus rambles profile image

Rufus rambles 3 years ago from Australia

Great hub! I yawned about 5 times while reading it! And I certainly wasn't bored. I have heard that yawning stimulates the vegas nerve which gives us more energy or alertness. Also, in dogs, yawning can show anxiety and is an attempt by the animal to calm itself. Very interesting hub!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Peggy, That is a lot of yard work. I'd be yawning too. Thanks for your comments.

K9strokes, It does seem to be very contagious. I sure appreciate the comments and the share. Hugs to you too.

Rufus, I think that is probably true about dogs. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 3 years ago from United States

Very interesting Pam.

I must have yawned 5 times while reading this hub...it is so contagious :)

I was aware that Livings yawn when they need more oxygen...other pointers were interesting.

Thanks pam. Voted up as useful and interesting


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Ruchira, I'm glad you found the hub interesting. I appreciate your comments.


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 3 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Pamela, I love the picture of the owl yawning!

A fascinating article, really enjoyed reading - didn't yawn once!

Thank you and voted up


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

I thought the animals were so cute. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and I appreciate your comments.


kellymom1970 profile image

kellymom1970 3 years ago

Pamela99, what great hub!! I always learn so much for your hard work. Great job! :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Kelly, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comments.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

This was fascinating.. and I didn't know that about sexual arousal... I just assumed she was trying to tell me something else entirely. :-D


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate the comments.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 3 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Oh, Pamela, I don't know how you got through this one... LOL It is a great hub! Seems to prove a point in itself - yawning is contagious. As soon as I saw the dog, I was a goner. I yawned with every example and explanation you gave. Lots of oxygen intake going on here. :-)

I did not know that long ago people may have yawned to show teeth for aggression. Also, I realized how right you are about a dog yawning before attacking, even in play my two yawn before wrestling. I never noticed before.

Great job and very interesting! Votes and shared! :-)


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

You made me yawn just by looking at Fido's picture! Interesting stuff here - thanks for enlightening us!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Seeing the pup yawning at the opening of this article...made me feel as if I must yawn.

I am now very tired after reading this..:) feeling I must y a w n.

Seriously, thanks for the info....I learned things about yawning I did not know. That is why I read these articles...to learn something new. Love the photos too..

Sending angels to you this seventh day of the new year :) ps


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Susan, I really learned a lot when I was doing the research for this hub and I did a lot of yawning also. Thanks so much for your comments and the share.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Marcy, He does have that affect. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

pstraubie, I found yawning to be an interesting topic to write about and yes, yawn. LOL Anyway, I appreciate your comments. Thank you for sending angels and back to you also.


bredandagnes profile image

bredandagnes 3 years ago from Ireland

There are some unexpected benefits to yawning-Voice therapists teach it to help relax the muscles in the neck and larynx and help with voice problems.Great hub and fun too.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

bredandagnes, This is good to know. Thanks for your comments.


Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 3 years ago from London, UK

Very interesting and enlightening to read. I knew yawning was contagious but didn't know why. I'm glad I read this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Lady E, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

It's funny that there are so many theories on why we yawn and I thought it very interesting that children with Autism do not yawn. This was a great read, but, oddly (or maybe not) I did yawn at the end! That's how contagious it is!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I teach my vocal students to yawn frequently to relax throat muscles as well as to open the back of the throat while singing. When a singer sounds nasal it's because the back of the throat is closed off, bringing all the vibrations to the nose and sinus areas. Yawning teaches us how to "open" the back of the throat - a crucial point for singers.

Great hub which I will pin and share. Voted across and thanks so much! ~ Audrey


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Delores, I agree that yawning is contagious. I could yawn just talking about it. Thanks so much for your comments.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Audry, I didn't know that. Thanks so much for your comments.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

OMG what an interesting article. I yawn at the slightest suggestion of a yawn!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

Rebecca, I do too! Thanks for your comments.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Interesting and so helpful. I am glad to have read this hub and know more about yawning. You enlightened me on a useful topic. Voted up!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

I am glad you enjoyed this rather unusual topic. Thanks for your comments,

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