Yawning, like sleeping, is a nearly universal behaviour in the animal kingdom. If you didn’t think you had much in common with fish or crab-eater seals, consider that these animals yawn just like we do!
Is yawning just a benign reflex, or can you learn something from your yawning habits? Does yawning only occur when you’re tired or bored, or could there be another reason? Read on to find out.
You have a sleep disorder
If you yawn excessively, even after a full night of sleep, it may be wise to get screened for a sleep disorder. If you know you have trouble sleeping, this is probably no revelation, but if you don’t remember having disturbed sleep and still find yourself yawning all day, sleep apnea or narcolepsy may be to blame. Remember to seek the prompt advice of a healthcare professional if you suspect you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
You really like someone
Have you ever heard that yawns are contagious? This isn’t just an urban legend. Yawning as a response to someone else’s yawn is a social clue that indicates an empathic connection between two people. By extension, the closer your social bond with a given individual is, the more likely you are to yawn when they do. Isn’t that sweet?
Your brain is too warm
Popular opinion dictates that we yawn to help bring oxygen to our brains, but there’s a body of research that suggests the real function of yawning is to cool our brains down. Regulating brain temperature is a critically important bodily function, and it seems that yawning is one of the many ways your body helps maintain its internal homeostasis or metabolic equilibrium. In the study referenced above, the researchers found that people generally yawn more in hotter climates.
You have an underlying medical problem
Don’t worry, this is only a consideration for people who find themselves yawning excessively in the absence of tiredness or a sleep disorder. Sufferers of a few chronic medical conditions—namely, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), and some other neurological conditions—tend to report higher than normal yawning frequency. When in doubt, get in touch with a trusted healthcare professional.