10 Little Known Facts About Yawning

Have you ever wondered why you can’t resist a yawn when you see someone else yawn first?  Have you ever pondered what causes the reaction or how many times the average person yawns in a day?

Well I sure have!

That’s why I’m discovering the myth and fact behind several yawning conundrums (thanks to valued help and insight from the experts). Here are ten little known facts about yawning…

1. What Causes Us to Yawn?

Of all the mind-blowing studies out there in the world, yawning is one phenomenon, yes I said phenomenon, that perpetually baffles scientists so much so that they have no concrete explanation for why we yawn. Some science textbooks claim low oxygen levels in the blood prompt a yawn—while studies have been conducted behind the theory that yawning regulates brain temperature to no avail. There is even a theory that yawning stretches out the lungs and surrounding tissues, preventing breathing airways from collapsing. Nah, that hasn’t been proven either.

2. Distinct Yawning Categories

I bet you didn’t know that there are two types of yawns. The first, spontaneous yawing results from boredom or fatigue. While the second type, contagious yawning, is a response to watching someone else yawn.  Trust me; yawn in front of your dog or cat and he won’t be able to resist yawning right back at you!

3. The Power of Yawn Suggestion

Contagious yawning is blamed on more than just witnessing your partner, child, or pet (according to my roommate, anyhow) yawn. Scientific reports say that yawning can be contagiously suggestive—meaning it’s also a natural response to thinking about, talking about, or hearing a yawn occur.

4. When Does Yawning Begin?

If you didn’t already buy into the fact that yawning as a natural human response—think again! Medical research reports that fetuses in the womb start yawning as early as 11 weeks old.

5. How Often Do We Yawn?

If you’re a healthy individual, despite age, gender, diet, or physical fitness levels, Harvard Health Publications indicate a probable rate of 10 yawns per hour…more often in the early morning if you’re like me, but others will yawn more often in the late evening. That means that an average person yawns, oh, roughly 240000 times during one lifetime!

6. Why Do I Yawn When You Yawn?

It turns out you may be more empathetic than you think if you can’t resist a yawn after witnessing someone else yawning. Elizabeth Cirulli, an assistant professor of medicine at the Center for Human Genome Variation at Duke University School of Medicine, revealed that “contagious” response yawning was dependent on your capacity for empathy. This may explain why those with certain desensitizing conditions—like autism or schizophrenia—are less prone to contagious yawning.

7. What Happens When you Resist Yawning?

Absolutely nothing! Stifling a yawn won’t cause a convulsion, shooting pains in your jaw, or your head to explode. In fact, scientists claim that the act of yawning doesn’t seem to serve any purpose whatsoever.

8. Ritual Yawning

Maybe you yawn as a hint to your spouse that it’s time to go to bed. While yawning among company could be their cue to leave you be. It’s certainly true for baboons. Biological research shows that baboons use yawning as a form of nonverbal communication. The alpha male (or head) baboon is said to repeat a series of extensive yawns to indicate that it’s time to sleep among fellow baboons.

9. Do Yawns Change With Age?

They actually do according to that same study from Duke University, which found that yawning decreases with age. In a study group consisting of 328 healthy individuals at various ages, the older the person was; the less likely they were to yawn while watching a 3-minute video of people yawning.

10. Yawning Can Signal Poor Health

Ah-ha, finally proof that not all yawns should be taken offensively! According to studies from Harvard University, yawning can indicate poor health and even serious conditions—such as the onset of a migraine headache, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS).




Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.