Yawning is considered a sign of tiredness and lack of sleep. There are numerous theories about the cause and meaning of the natural breathing reflex, but why do we really yawn and why is it so contagious? Find out here what is behind the myth of yawning and how yawning is really related to our sleep.
Table of Contents
- The yawning phenomenon
- What happens when you yawn
- Why do we yawn?
- Why is yawning contagious?
- What can I do about frequent yawning?
1. The phenomenon of yawning
Yawning is the involuntary and natural strong reflex to open your mouth and take a deep breath. Yawning in humans lasts up to six seconds and, like most vertebrates, we humans yawn around 250 times a day.000 times in our lives. Yawning occurs more frequently in the morning and evening hours and is therefore often associated with a lack of or less restful sleep. In fact, we yawn more often when we are tired, but also in states of intense concentration, hunger or stress.
2. What happens when you yawn?
Yawning is a natural reflex that we can only suppress or prevent to a limited extent - and probably for good reason. When we yawn, the muscles of the mouth and face become tense and the rest of the body muscles, especially the chest and neck muscles, also become tight. The diaphragm rises and falls and our heart rate and blood flow increase for a short time. The deep breathing and short-term widening of the airways supply the lungs with more air and in this way also make more oxygen available.
3. Why do we yawn?
What exactly triggers the “yawn reflex” and what this behavior really serves has not yet been scientifically proven. Although this belief is widespread, frequent yawning does not appear to be a direct sign of poor or insufficient sleep. There are a few different theories about the triggers and positive effects of yawning.
Theory: Yawning is the reaction to lack of oxygen and tiredness!
It has long been thought that yawning occurs in response to a lack of oxygen and serves to increase oxygen supply and reduce carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Because an acute lack of oxygen is often associated with severe fatigue, yawning has been understood as a natural reaction to sleepiness, with which our body wants to increase its oxygen supply and keep itself awake. But is that true? Unfortunately no! Studies today show that oxygen supply has no influence on the frequency of yawning and is not an explicit trigger.
Theory: Yawning makes you awake and alert!
Many researchers believe that yawning actually serves to keep you awake or increase alertness. Admittedly, we yawn particularly often in boring situations and rather monotonous activities, and the stretching and stretching that comes with breathing activates the circulation. However, a study from Switzerland shows that the level of brain activity before and after yawning is almost the same.
Theory: Yawning cools the brain and thus increases concentration!
Current studies suggest that extensive yawning cools our brain and thus helps thermoregulate our brain temperature. Because the brain also works constantly and generates heat. After sleeping and when tired, the room temperature is generally higher - it is precisely in these situations that we yawn particularly often. By briefly increasing the heart rate while yawning, more cool blood can reach the brain regions and the brain temperature can be reduced again. The result: The brain is protected from overheating, an optimal working temperature is maintained and concentration and mental performance are increased. These assumptions are supported by further studies and experiments and correspond to the current state of research.
4. Why is yawning contagious?
When one yawns, everyone yawns. We all know the contagious effect of yawning. Neuroscience attributes this to the activation of so-called mirror neurons. These are special structures in our brain that are also related to empathy and empathy and cause us to “mirror” and imitate the behavior of others.
Did you know that for many people just reading about yawning or thinking about it is enough to yawn too?
5. What can I do against frequent yawning?
Based on the theory that yawning serves to thermoregulate our brain, it can help to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth - here the incoming air is already cleaned and “tempered”.
Yawning itself is a harmless and harmless reflex. From a medical perspective, however, suppression is rather unhealthy and should therefore not become the rule. So don't take it to heart if the person you're talking to yawns a lot during your conversation.
Yawning refers to the involuntary and natural reflex to open the mouth wide and take a deep breath.
When yawning, the muscles tense, the heart rate and blood flow increase, and the lungs and brain are better supplied for a short time.
The cause of yawning is not entirely known. Lack of oxygen or tiredness are no longer considered triggers, but rather the thermoregulation of the brain.
Yawning is contagious but harmless and should not be suppressed.