As many of you likely know, yawning is a reflex that most people experience on a regular basis. The process involves inhalation followed by exhalation to increase the oxygen levels and decrease the carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. Now while it’s usually thought to be more common in tired people, it also happens when we’re bored or listening to an earnest speech. That said, you’re probably wondering whether or not it is contagious. What’s more, did you know that there are several different types of yawning? Read on to learn about this phenomenon in detail.

Causes Of Yawning

Tiredness

Yawning can happen when the body is tired, at rest, or simply when the brain detects that it’s time for a good stretch. It’s known as the “stretching yawn” because it has a similar physiological effect to a yawn with an open mouth. This response may be triggered because we need more oxygen or by low oxygen levels in the blood during times of sleep and rest. In this case, yawning has been linked to sleepiness.

Boredom

Yawning can sometimes be induced unconsciously just by concentrating on something boring. This is called a “state yawn,” where your brain exhibits the same physiological response to boredom that it does in reaction to sleep.

Cold Air

Yawns can also be induced by cold weather, air pressure, or by eating foods rich in tryptophan, such as turkey and salmon. In this case, the release of serotonin and endorphins are responsible for the cycle of yawning.

Depression

Excessive yawning can also be a sign of depression or monotony. It can be triggered by emotions such as anger or sadness. Being sad or angry is a natural reaction to certain experiences in life. Therefore, it’s not surprising that people yawn when they experience these feelings.

Behavioral Issues

What’s more, yawning is also associated with some behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, as well as a reptilian syndrome. In such cases, people experience excessive sleepiness during the day and may also encounter irregular sleep patterns at night along with other symptoms like abnormal eating habits and insomnia.

Sleep Deprivation

Being sleep-deprived or having some kind of sleep apnea can lead us to yawn more frequently. This is all thanks to a hormone within our bodies called cortisol, which will cause us to be less focused because it stimulates prolactin production, which rewards us for staying alert. As a result of this connection, more oxygen is needed in order for people experiencing sleep deprivation to stay awake as opposed to those who aren’t often yawning.

Brain Temperature

Brain temperature, as well as body temperature, also affects yawning. According to the brain cooling theory, when the brain begins to overheat, it causes the need to yawn and allows increased oxygen into the bloodstream. As a result, blood will be pushed towards the brain to keep it cool. This becomes especially important during times of prolonged physical activity and when mental focus is increased to cool the brain.

Why Is Yawning Contagious?

A group of people all yawning at the same time

Yawning can be contagious, especially when you’re in the company of other people who are also yawning or if you’re looking at someone else’s gaping mouth. Shocking statistics reveal that more than 75% of humans yawn within five minutes of seeing someone else do it in person—and 37% of people will yawn if they see a photo or video of someone else doing it! But why is this the case? It’s believed that spontaneous yawning is contagious because it’s an indication that you’re tired. Since we’re naturally empathetic creatures, you can yawn, and other people will feel tired as well.

But, what about those “tired” people who have no desire to sleep – do they still get the urge to yawn? Many researchers argue that if someone is not ready for sleep, they probably won’t be affected by contagious yawns anyway. And there are others who say this “contagion” has nothing to do with being tired at all—it has more to do with empathy.

If you have ever been in the company of a person who didn’t yawn after you for no apparent reason, then you have probably wondered whether this is even possible. It’s pretty rare—and researchers don’t know why this happens. Some people can fight off contagious yawning because they’re very self-aware, and it may be that they understand the purpose of a yawn (such as being tired), so they can resist it.

So, is yawning contagious? Yes, but it’s up for debate whether or not it is directly tied to sleep.

How To Stop Yawning So Much

Man yawning in the office

We may not always want to yawn in certain situations because it’s typically inconvenient, but there are a few things that you can do to prevent yourself from doing it. Here are some examples:

Take a Deep Breath

You can dilute your carbon dioxide levels by either altering your breathing patterns or simply changing where you stand. For instance, if you’re feeling fatigued while delivering a presentation or at work, focus on taking deep breaths while inhaling and exhaling slowly and calmly.

Drinking Water

Drinking water is also a good way to prevent yourself from yawning. It enables the body to regulate its carbon dioxide levels and also serves as a natural energy booster. Additionally, you can focus on consuming food with lots of nutrients and vitamins to give yourself an instant energy boost and essential nutrition.

Capture Your Eyes

If you suddenly feel the urge to yawn, try looking down towards your feet or searching for something that’s far away from your sight. Although yawning is simply a physical response, its contagious nature can create a domino effect whereby a person who sees you yawning will also do the same thing. This could lead to your entire office getting drowsy, especially if everyone is sleep deprived. To avoid this from happening, avoid looking around when someone near you yawns because it could trigger your impulse to do the same. Better yet, cover your mouth so nobody else sees.

Get Fresh Air

Fresh air can prevent yawning because it keeps your nerves relaxed. Open up your office windows and let the fresh air in. Take short breaks outdoors, so you don’t get too tired indoors. Cool air can cool your brain and lower your energy use.

Conclusion

Yawning is a natural way of releasing tension and keeping the body fresh. And while we often think that yawning is contagious, studies have proven that it mainly occurs because you’re tired or bored. In this case, yawning is an indication of what your brain might be feeling. Yawning helps you relax and keeps your nerves relaxed as well during tough times or when you feel extremely exhausted.

So, you can yawn as much as you want, even if it’s because of someone else—it’s healthy and normal.

Additional Reading

Why Do People Snore, and How Can We Treat It?

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