Why do people yawn, and why does yaw go to others?


  • What is yawning?
  • The reasons
  • Why is yawning contagious
  • Interesting Facts
  • Sign of what can be frequent yawning?
  • How to overcome a yawn?

We yawn, waking up in the morning and falling asleep in the evenings. We yawn at boring meetings and during long pauses. We yawn, it is worthwhile for someone to yawn nearby.
It would seem that such a familiar reflex or ritual. But here is surprising: researchers are still confused about the reasons for its appearance.

What is yawning?

Yawning is a process of breathing that occurs involuntarily by deep, prolonged inhalation and relatively rapid exhalation. The mouth, as a rule, is wide open and a kind of sound accompanies such a breathing action, and some also have reflexive tears.


The process of yawning is in most cases a normal physiological phenomenon that occurs when there is a lack of oxygen, stressful situations, fatigue, but may be a sign of some diseases in the body.

The reasons

The most common version says that yawning is such a protective mechanism that allows the brain to lose fatigue, invigorate with a fresh dose of oxygen, and at the same time get rid of excess carbon dioxide. Statistics and studies confirm this hypothesis: people most often yawn in those moments when their gray matter is experiencing fatigue and obviously needs rest – for example, in the evening after a hard day’s work, during a tedious meeting, or in a prolonged, too complicated lecture

A yawn is essentially the same as a breath when the lungs and blood are saturated with oxygen. However, as it turned out, people are yawning even if they are given pure oxygen for breathing – that is, the reflex opening of the mouth is not at all connected with hypoxia (lack of oxygen). What then?

Yawning is needed for cooling the brain – one of the most recent and increasingly popular theories tells us. A computer or laptop, for example, cannot function without a built-in fan: under heavy load, the processor overheats and, if not cooled in time, can fail. Our gray matter is arranged according to a similar principle: with prolonged or intensive work, its temperature rises, which worsens the connections between neurons and ultimately has a destructive effect on thinking. Therefore, the brain needs cooling – this can be facilitated by an open window or a walk in the park, a glass of cool water or (since neither a walk nor a glass does not shine) sweet yawning.

In principle, the cooling theory is confirmed by experiments. For example, volunteers who were given an ice compress on their forehead, watching boring movies, yawned less than 2 times than a group of volunteers without a cooling compress. So, if you feel that you are yawning, be sure to note: Your brain is overheated, and it would be nice to walk in the fresh air.

Why is yawning contagious

To make sure that yawning cannot have simple explanations, it suffices to recall a well-known fact: this reflex is contagious. One has only to yawn – and the epidemic of yawning covers most of those around him.

Neither oxygen starvation, nor overheating of the brain is impossible to explain, because the physiological processes in each take place individually, which means they cannot be simultaneous. So, the reflex has some more meaning. And he was really discovered, stumbling upon another fact.

Yawning in people begins not only with visual contact with a yawning line: often, to start the process, you just have to think about yawning, read about it, or hear a specific yawning sound. From this it follows that the reflex is not always a physiological process, but a mental one.


After research, scientists concluded that yawning is contagious due to mirror neurons. They are located in the layer of gray matter of the brain, not only of people, but also of some animals, birds, and endowed with the property of empathy – they begin to be excited when we see the actions of others. These neurons are responsible for the ability to imitate (for example, in the development of foreign languages) and empathize. They make consciously experience the emotions of other people, which is actually called empathy.

Roughly speaking: you are yawning – it means that you have empathy and are able to act in social groups. It is assumed that our ancient ancestors thus defined “their” – those with whom you can play as a team. By the way, as experiments show, children under 4 years old and those who suffer from autism are not affected by mirror-like yawning: they have not yet learned to act according to social laws. However, and this interesting facts about yawning are not limited.

Interesting Facts

With a yawn, you can “get infected” as a person from a person, and from person to dog. Studies by Swedish scientists prove that dogs can yawn when yawning people get into their field of vision, and the older the dog, the more prone to reflex imitation, and the puppies less than 7 months of age are not transmitted.

If we talk about spontaneous, not imitative yawning, then different animals have their own reasons for it. The same dogs often “reflex”, with agitation – for example, once in an unusual environment. While waiting for dinner at the zoo, lions begin to yawn strenuously. Hyenas – when preparing for an attack on the victim. Many monkeys, opening their mouth wide, show their superiority in a flock of relatives. From time to time birds, turtles, crocodiles, snakes are yawning …

But herbivores yawn much less often cold-blooded and predatory. For example, it is extremely rare to meet a yawning horse, a cow, a camel or a hare. This, by the way, makes scientists think that yawning can be in some way connected with the level of intellectual development: those creatures whose IQ are higher are yawning more often than “silly” ones.

Sign of what can be frequent yawning?

By itself, frequent yawning can not be a sign of some disease. Her appearance can provoke lack of sleep, fatigue, stress, nervousness, overeating, boredom. In this case, it is a normal reaction of the body to such factors. It is necessary to remove them and yawning will return to normal. By the way, during the day, a person yawns at least 10 times.

The presence of other symptoms with frequent yawning may be a sign of illness. For example, with constant drowsiness and frequent yawning, a diagnosis is possible – vegetative-vascular dystonia or cardiac arrhythmia.

Dizziness with blurred eyes, an increase in body temperature, along with frequent yawning, may be a precursor of an epileptic seizure.

How to overcome a yawn?

There are situations that yawning can be inappropriate. To cope with it there are several ways:

  • When approaching the next yawn, you need to take a deep breath with your mouth and exhale through the nose.
  • Many are helped by a sip of water or wetting of her lips.
  • Full sleep is the prevention of frequent yawning.
  • Sports will support the body vigorous, saturating it with oxygen. You can do squats, pushups or other physical exercises that will improve the tone of the body.
  • Proper nutrition and the use of the required amount of water throughout the day prevents the occurrence of frequent yawning.
  • Do not slouch. Smooth posture contributes to the full filling of the lungs with oxygen. When the back is bent, the diaphragm does not fully saturate with air, which can provoke increased yawning.
  • Walking in the fresh air, airing the room, quitting smoking will help to get rid of unreasonable yawning.