Have you ever wondered why we yawn?
As trivial as this question may seem, yawning has required and still requires in-depth study to precisely define its causes and origins. Let's find out more about this very common action.
What lies behind a yawn
It was initially thought that yawning served to increase the amount of oxygen inside the body, but this hypothesis was refuted in the late 1980s. By contrast, there are more sound arguments for the theory that sees yawning as a means of thermoregulating brain temperature and preventing it from rising excessively. A higher temperature means a greater sense of drowsiness it is no coincidence that during a period of fever, we feel the need to sleep much more.
Besides temperature, another factor behind yawning is boredom. If what one is dealing with is not stimulating enough (such as a boring job or a passive activity), drowsiness sets in and the body tries to stimulate the muscles in the face and neck by yawning to avoid giving in to the instinct to fall asleep.
What if I yawn all day long?
Excessive yawning can be a sign that there is something more going on than simple sleepiness: if you yawn excessively during the daytime hours, you should try to investigate whether this is the result of a night-time sleep disorder, especially if you think you have slept the right number of hours. Disorders such as migraine may also include an excessive need to yawn, and it cannot be ruled out that there may be a connection with stomach or intestinal disorders.
We sometimes talk about how yawning is 'contagious': when we see another person yawn, we also get the instinct to do so. The interesting thing is how this is more likely to happen if it is a close relative or friend who starts the yawning streak than if it is a stranger. One of the reasons for this is empathy, which makes us sympathize with the state of mind felt by the other person and which will be all the stronger the closer the bond with that person.
The exact causes and mechanisms involved in yawning have not yet been found and numerous studies are still being carried out on the subject. Until we know more, we'll just have to keep yawning, morning and night... On a Magniflex mattress!