How often do you think about the humble act of yawning? Most mammals yawn, and even some fish, birds and snakes yawn.
But it’s not all out of boredom or exhaustion, like we often presume. Baboons, guinea pigs and Siamese fighting fish yawn to show aggression, while some penguins perform a yawning-like action while they are trying to impress a potential mate.
But if we look at yawning the ways we humans do it, that uncontrollable deep inhale with our mouths wide open, it’s pretty clear that we don’t do it to try and attract a partner they way penguins do. For us humans, yawning is such a common thing that we often take it for granted.
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Why do we Yawn?
So why do we yawn? Once we start looking at that question, more questions seem to arise: Is yawning actually a sign of tiredness? Is excessive yawning a reason for concern? Let’s put some of these questions to rest and dig a little deeper into what yawning is all about.
We should start by saying that the mysteries of the humble yawn remain unsolved. There are theories and studies, but the exact reason we yawn is still elusive.
We normally associate yawning with being tired. But it turns out, it is a little more complex than that. For humans, in addition to the commonly accepted idea that yawning signals tiredness, yawning can be a more general indication that conditions in the body are going through some changes. Studies show that yawning is common when we are fatigued, but also when we are waking up, and still during other times when our general state of alertness is shifting.
So, is yawning actually a sign of tiredness? It most certainly can be. Your brain is shifting into a state where sleepiness is becoming stronger and your ability to stay alert is depleting. Some research describes yawning as a “cooling down” system for the brain — kind of like the built in fan kicking on when our laptop gets too hot, and this can happen when our brain waves are changing as tiredness sets in.
Is Excessive yawning a problem?
Excessive yawning a reason for concern? Probably not, but like with any reaction or involuntary action in our body (like a sudden rush of adrenaline when we are somehow threatened, for example), we should take notice, especially if it is “excessive”.
Our bodies are capable of all sorts of warning systems and ways of communicating stress, exhaustion, malnutrition, fear, hunger, and so on. If something is going on that is out of the ordinary, like excessive yawning, take a minute to consider when the last time you’ve had any rest was. In our busy world, we can go a long time ignoring our bodies’ signals… until we can’t.
If you are excessively yawning, see how you feel after a good night’s sleep. If it continues for several days, it’s probably good to see a doctor.
We are big fans of sleep and everything that comes along with it. From crawling into fresh bedding at night on a perfect and comfortable mattress, to waking up feeling fresh and rested. If you are yawning excessively, it might be your body’s way of telling you that it’s time for a good night’s sleep. We recommend you follow your body’s advice.