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Thursday, 23 September 2021

Why do we yawn?

Do you sometimes find yourself yawning I know I do. I always put it down to tiredness ... but is it? Perhaps there is more to yawning? I came across this article and thought it may be of interest ... 

"Many animals yawn but we are not entirely sure why. Perhaps it makes us more alert, reduces anxiety, or cools an overheating brain. Contagious yawning is even more mysterious but seems to be confined to highly social animals, which might provide a clue to its purpose.


What is yawning?
Yawning is an evolutionarily ancient reflex that we share with lots of animals – not just mammals but also birds, reptiles and fish. Humans begin yawning in the womb at around 11 weeks gestation. However, we don’t feel the urge to yawn when other people do until around four or five years old.

This indicates that there are two types of yawning – spontaneous and contagious – each requiring a separate explanation. Although we have some promising ideas, yawning is still something of a puzzle.

We tend to think of yawning as a sign of being tired or bored. That probably explains the popular perception that it is a way to get more oxygen into the blood to increase alertness. However, when psychologist Robert Provine at the University of Maryland, tested this idea he found it didn’t stand up – people were just as likely to yawn when breathing air high in oxygen.

A closer look at when people yawn suggests another explanation. It turns out that most spontaneous yawning actually happens when we are limbering up for activity such as a workout, performance or exam, or simply when we wake up. That has led to the idea that yawning helps us gear up by increasing blood flow to the brain. How exactly that might work is not clear, but it does fit with the observation that some fish yawn in anticipation of a fight.

Another possibility is that yawning cools the brain. This idea emerged from the observation that people yawned far less when their heads were cooled by cold packs. Temperature regulation is crucial for physiological performance. It is controlled by a brain region called the hypothalamus, and involves production of adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that increase alertness and help us deal with stress. That might also explain why people often yawn when feeling anxious – as do monkeys.

Why is yawning contagious?
Explaining contagious yawning is even trickier. Apart from humans, the only other species known to catch yawns from one another are chimps, dogs (which can be infected by human yawns), the wonderfully named high-yawning Sprague-Dawley rat, budgerigars and lions, who appear to use yawning to send signals to the rest of the pride.

These animals are all very sociable, which suggests contagious yawning might have something to do with empathy, or at least a tendency to mimic and synchronise actions with others, a foundation of empathy. But whether contagious yawning helps us build social relationships is another matter. It could simply be a by-product of the way we and other highly-social animals instinctively respond to others."
The above words and picture from article here

I do find yawning is contagious - do you?
The other strange thing I found that I was yawning after I'd typed out these words ... I do hope you are not yawning after reading it!

Perhaps a pick me up tea or coffee will help, with a nice almond and orange low carb biscuit, see recipe details here


As regular readers know, this blog is presented in a magazine style - we hope something for everyone. You will find a variety of articles, studies, thoughts, photographs, music and recipes!

However, not all the recipes ideas featured in this blog may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan

24 comments:

Tom said...

...something that I've always thought about.

Elephant's Child said...

I yawn when I see birds and animals yawn too. It isn't only contagious across our species.

Jutta.K. said...

Jetzt musste ich lachen,
denn ich habe tatsächlich einmal gegähnt, als ich anfing zu lesen :-)
♥lichst Jutta

Margaret D said...

Interesting article to read.

Iris Flavia said...

Never thought birds can yawn! (seeing the baby I had to yawn btw).
Interesting read, thank you.

Valerie-Jael said...

Well, I'm yawning now, but I'M fresh out of bed! Valerie

Jo said...

Isn't it strange, I was yawning whilst reading, haha. Those biscuits look delicious, I may have to give those a try.

My name is Erika. said...

This is fascinating. I didn't know about yawning and cooling your brain (or other reasons). Thanks for sharing this.

CJ Kennedy said...

I had heard the theory that yawning cools the brain. Delicious cookies are a better way.

Ananka said...

Oh Jan it is so contagious. I instantly yawned when I saw the photo of the baby yawning. I love seeing my cats yawn and then I yawn with them. Those wee biccys look great. One with a coffee please :-D

Jeanie said...

True story -- Yawning is so contagious I started yawning -- a lot -- just reading this. Very interesting!

Jenn Jilks said...

It's an interesting topic!!!!

Christine said...

Interesting to learn more on yawning.

DVArtist said...

This is a great post. Thanks for all the info.

happyone said...

How very interesting! I did yawn when I saw the baby. :)

Lowcarb team member said...

Jutta.K. said...
Jetzt musste ich lachen,
denn ich habe tatsächlich einmal gegähnt, als ich anfing zu lesen :-)
♥lichst Jutta


Google translate ...
Now I had to laugh,
because I actually yawned once when I started reading :-)
♥lichst Jutta

Maggie said...

Thats interesting, I didn't yawn when I was reading but have been told that I yawn a lot. I've noticed I yawn more frequently if I've got a migraine coming on and was told that happened because the body was trying to get more oxygen

William Kendall said...

I admit, seeing the word yawn makes me do so.

judee said...

Yes, yawning is really contagious for me. If I see someone yawn, I yawn. Very interesting post. thanks

Conniecrafter said...

I had to laugh because I yawned 4 times while reading this but it is very close to my bedtime so that is that I figured it was, but after reading this I am not really sure, and yes I do think yawning can be catchy :)

baili said...


such an interesting topic dear Jan :)

yes i too find it contagious but thank you for explaining that it can be sign of breathing better as i used to take it sign of dullness and disinterest .

i yawn when i saw the baby up there lol not after reading you :)

sandy said...

I enjoyed this a lot. I did yawn twice but i think it was the power of suggestion.

Kay said...

Well... I just looked at that baby yawning and ended up yawning myself. I need to get to bed.

Teresa said...

Me ha parecido muy interesante. Yo también bostece viendo al bebé, es muy contagioso jaja. Besos.