Why do we yawn? The scientific explanations and how to stop it

Just thinking about yawning can cause you to do so. Everyone does it, including animals, and you shouldn’t try to smother it, because when you yawn, your body needs it. It is one of the most contagious and uncontrollable actions a body can do. There are many theories about why people yawn. One of the most popular is that yawning helps the body take in more oxygen. But this theory has been widely denied. Here’s what current research suggests about yawning, your brain temperature, and your potential for empathy.

Causes of yawning, even if you’re not tired

The most scientifically backed theory for why we yawn is the temperature regulation of the brain. A 2014 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior examined the yawning habits of 120 people and found that yawning was less frequent in winter. If the temperature of the brain deviates too much from the norm, inhaling air can help cool it.

You yawn when:

– you are tired, your brain slows down, which lowers its temperature

– you are bored: the brain is not stimulated and begins to slow down, which leads to a drop in temperature.

– seeing someone else yawn: when you are in the same environment as a yawning person, you are exposed to the same temperature.

Another reason you may yawn is that the body wants to wake up. The movement helps stretch the lungs and their tissues, and allows the body to flex its muscles and joints. It can also force blood to your face and brain to increase your alertness.

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Is yawning contagious?

Yawning is definitely contagious. Even videos of people doing it can trigger a yawning session. If you ended up yawning, then, according to a study from Baylor University, that’s a good thing: you’re showing empathy and complicity. The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, looked at 135 students, their personalities and their reaction to different facial movements. The results showed that the less empathy a person had, the less likely they were to yawn after seeing someone else yawn. It is important to note that these results cannot be generalized. Not catching a yawn is not evidence of psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies.

3 ways to stop yawning

1. Try to breathe deeply

If you find yourself yawning excessively, try deep nose breathing exercises. Your body may need more oxygen. A 2007 study also found that nose breathing completely reduced contagious yawning.

2. Get moving

Breaking the routine can also help boost your brain. Feelings of fatigue, boredom and stress tend to make you yawn more. Excessive yawning can also come from excessive caffeine consumption.

3. Refresh yourself

You can also try going for a walk outside or finding a space where the temperature is cooler. If you don’t have time, drink cold water or eat a cool snack, such as fruit or baby carrots.

Should we consult a doctor if we yawn “too much”?

You should see a doctor if you feel like yawning more than usual and have additional symptoms that interfere with your daily activities.
Tell your doctor when the yawning started and what other symptoms are, such as mental fog, pain in certain areas, or even lack of sleep. This information can help your doctor diagnose the underlying condition and make treatment recommendations based on individual needs.

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There are many theories as to why we yawn. Recent studies and research suggest that it is a way for our body to regulate brain temperature. You may also yawn more if you haven’t had enough sleep and feel tired.


Gupta S, et al. (2013). Yawning and its physiological significance.

Pal S, et al. (2009). A case of excessive yawning with citalopram.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice.

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