Why Do We Yawn? The Surprising Meaning Behind Our Yawns

A girl yawning while working in front of desk

Have you ever experienced excessive yawning? There’s been a lot of talks, research, and debate about yawning. Why do we yawn in the first place anyway?

A girl yawning

It can be observed that people yawn both when they wake from a good night’s slumber and when they’re tired. But we also yawn when we’re worried, or bored, or hungry, or just when we’re about to start doing something. In case you haven’t noticed yawning is also contagious. Once you see someone about to do it, you’re well on your way to yawning, too.

Why Do We Yawn?

Science tells us that there are several triggers. As a matter of fact, both police officers and skydivers yawn just when they’re about to dive right into their duties. If you’re truly engaged in this article, it’s also possible that you could be yawning now.

Earlier discoveries tell us there aren’t definite answers as to why we actually do it. There isn’t a physiological effect to yawning, too, those studies say. But recently, studies say that yawning is a strategy for the body to take in a good amount of air to further increase oxygen levels. In other words, yawning can be a response to deprivation of carbon dioxide. Still, this particular hypothesis oxygenation was let go after being proved wrong by a series of evaluations.

A theory that continues to revolve today is that it’s a cooling mechanism. Experts are looking at yawning is an agency that advances wither alertness or arousal. Furthermore, yawning is made of deep air inhalation partnered with aggressive jaw-stretching and then followed by an expulsion of the air before the jaw closes.

These patterns of behavior, on a collective level, aid blood flow in reaching the skull. This activity, in turn, presents several effects such as cerebral cooling. That said, brain temperate has a lot to do with it.  When one’s body is warmer, it’s normal for one to feel sleepy and tired. On that note, evening yawns could be triggered to oppose sleep in an attempt to bring about some extent of alertness or arousal.

A cute baby yawning

All of these mentioned it’s safe to say that yawning is contagious. One person’s yawn can trigger induced yawning among an entire team. Individuals who are said to carry more empathy towards others are more easily influenced to yawn. Further research has shown that human yawns trigger brain areas that handle social engagement. if you have a dog, you’re even likely to testify that dogs, too, can yawn once they see you do it first. Contagious yawning has also been observed among many animals, as well.

In all of this, the transference of yawning potentially serves to advance coordinated arousal within team members near each other. What does is synchronize the group’s mental state.

What We’re Telling Others When We Yawn?

Neuroscience expert Andrew Gallup says that the brain cooling theory, which is his study, by the way, is the only study that thoroughly tackles comprehensible results. Still,other experts aren’t fully sold. Adrian Guggisberg, a University physician and expert, says that he agrees with Gallup to some extent—specifically, that room temperature changes can provoke yawning. But he’s unsure of the brain cooling theory. To his advantage, he presents a substitute reasoning of the subject matter.

His take is that precisely because yawning is restrained in rooms and moments with the high temperature already says that it fails exactly when we need it. He goes on to note that there are multiple other ways to manage and balance body temperature; sweating is one of them. That said he believes that it is unclear why the need to subvert to another regulator exists when it fails precisely when it matters.

All these put together,  yawn specialists have been split into two opposing sides. Team Gallup believes that yawning is a communication strategy that presents noticeable social benefits. Guggisberg, on the other hand, resorts to the social theory related to yawning. He believes that the physiological aftermaths of yawning are too trivial. Still, he acknowledges that yawning is contagious and that it is a clue.

Why Is Yawning Contagious?

As previously mentioned, contagious yawning is a real thing. This may also be referred to as the “echo phenomenon.” Put simply, this is an immediate imitation of another person’s behavior without awareness.  Furthermore, it’s noteworthy to add that yawning isn’t exclusive to humans alone. Other living beings such as chimpanzees and dogs also exhibit the phenomenon. But its transmittal, as mentioned, isn’t completely defined just yet.

In a certain experiment, the volunteers were told to try to repress their yawns when in the presence of other people yawning. Right after, the volunteers are told to do the opposite. In yet another experiment, the volunteers were told the same instructions, but this time, the searchers now included electrical currents to the scalps of the participants. These currents were included to gauge how the motor cortex—which is believed to control yawning—would respond. During the series of experiments, the volunteers were then told to recount their urge to yawn.

The researchers found that the volunteers did not succeed in totality in their resistance to yawning. A few “full yawns” were noted, but the count of repressed yawns grew in number so much so when the participants were asked to repress their yawns.

The discussion on the power and science behind yawning continues to this day, and it remains to be a fun topic to hurdle over for many science enthusiasts. What’s your take on yawning?

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