Do you frequently yawn? Do you have yawning spells after waking up or during the wee hours of the morning? Do you often yawn at bedtime?
A yawn is a semi-automatic reflex that comes from the brain stem as a response to the low level of oxygen in the brain. It is a reflex of deep inhalation and exhalation of breath. Some say that yawning is caused by nervousness. Paratroopers have been noted to yawn moments before exiting the aircraft. Of course, considering the nature of their work, they may only be sleepy.
Yawning does not necessarily indicate fatigue, although people tend to yawn when sleepy. Studies show that yawning increases the level of arousal for a short time. Yawning may be the body’s way of combating tiredness or sleepiness. Ennui may also cause yawning — as you lose interest in your surroundings, you often find yourself yawning uncontrollably.
Besides yawning being associated with tiredness, stress, overwork, lack of stimulation, or boredom, it can also be a powerful non-verbal message with several meanings depending on circumstances. Ever yawned in front of your Chemistry teacher? How about yawning continuously during Mass?
Hypothesized Reasons Why the Body Yawns
Based on studies done on animals–particularly rats–during the late 1980’s, it was found out that rats yawned more in the early mornings before awakening and when they were hungry. Several different brain chemicals seem to be involved in yawning, but there are no clear findings regarding the mechanism.
Many believe yawning is contagious. Seeing a person yawn or just thinking of yawning may trigger this reflex action; however, the exact causes of yawning are still undetermined and no scientific finding can back up such belief. It may be contagious or just a matter of coincidence — such is the mystery of the human anatomy.
Here are some more possible reasons why we yawn.
- The deep inhalation while yawning stretches type II alveolar pneumocytes, which release the surfactant dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) into the layer of fluid on the alveolar surface.
- A means of cooling the brain.
- An excess of carbon dioxide and lack of oxygen in the blood.
- The deep inhalation during a yawn is a way of preventing alveolar collapse within the lungs.
- An action used as an unconscious communication of psychological decompression after a state of high alert.
- A way of displaying (or indicative of) apathy.
- A means of equalizing middle ear pressure, which can be triggered by another person’s yawning.
In some psychotherapy circles, yawning along with laughter and crying are believed to discharge painful emotions. These emotions and actions are then encouraged for some psychological cases in order to promote physical and emotional changes.
Hypothesized Causes of Yawning
There are no definite causes or reasons for yawning. Studies and research are constantly being tested and experimented with to determine the nature of yawning. Here are causes of yawning that many people in the medical community consider to be accurate:
- Drowsiness or weariness
- Disorders associated with excessive daytime sleepiness
- Vasovagal reaction, including heart attack and aortic dissection
Treatment for Yawning
Since there are no definite answers about the various causes and reasons for yawning, there are no established treatments. Yawning is not in itself a thing to be concerned about. As said earlier, some medical authorities believe that yawning is caused by vasovagal reaction and disorders related to stress and sleeping habits. Treatment based on these beliefs should follow the underlying cause. If you have a history of heart attack, treating it will also be the remedy for your excessive yawning.
How to Suppress a Yawn
While treatment is a matter of medical and cultural opinion, suppressing a yawn is a matter of discipline. There are situations when yawning is inappropriate and suppressing it is the best course of action. Such situations include interviews, funerals, weddings, conference meetings, and medical consults. Yawning, as many would agree, is a sign of boredom. You do not want the priest or the interviewer questioning your intention and character, do you?
Follow these steps to learn how to suppress a yawn so as not to send the wrong message at the wrong time:
- Hold your mouth tightly and clench your jaws. When you feel the yawn is coming, just maintain pressure at the back of your jaws. Swallow the yawn as it tries to escape.
- Drink a glass of water when you feel the urge to yawn. This will cause the feeling to subside. Drinking plenty of fluids will also make you feel less tired. Dehydration is the primary cause of fatigue, which can lead to yawning.
- Inhale deeply and try to hold your breath as long as you can, then breathe out. Make sure to expel all the air from your lungs. Yawning may be the result of too much carbon dioxide in the lungs.
- Push firmly on your throat directly above the Adam’s apple. For girls, it is directly above the Eve’s orange. Push upwards to expel the air in your throat and hold back your yawn. You may want to exercise discretion here.
- If you cannot suppress the yawn, you can cover your mouth with your hands to hide or minimize the yawning. Sometimes this act helps to suppress a full-blown yawn.
Tips and Warnings
- Getting plenty of sleep and fresh air can prevent excessive yawning.
- Sometimes the yawn cannot be stopped and it would be best to just let it out. Show some manners regardless of the situation and cover your mouth.
- Look away if you see someone else yawning to prevent yourself from yawning as well.
- Excessive yawning for no apparent reason can be a symptom of asthma or other lung conditions. See your doctor if excessive yawning persists.
Yawning should not be a major problem. It does not kill and it does not cause global warming. The main reason people try to suppress or treat yawning is because it’s a nuisance. Yawning may send the wrong message if done at the wrong time, which makes it rather annoying, considering the inability of humans to fully control yawning spells. Next time you get bored during a talk or class, just raise your hand and ask the speaker to step it up or just wrap it up.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of yawning.