The Infamous Yawn

Its 9am as I sit down at my desk to begin writing this week’s blog about yawning. I notice as I begin thinking about what I am going to say, my eyes start getting a little glossy, my mouth gapes open and…yes there it is. A yawn! What is it about simply thinking about yawning that causes us to actually do it? It’s something we have been doing since the day we are born, and yet most of us don’t know very much about it at all. I decided to take it upon myself to learn as much as I possibly can about this biological phenomena.

First cool yawn fact? Did you think only humans yawn? Not true! Almost all vertebrates participate in this jaw dropping experience. Vertebrates are basically animals with backbones, and include species of birds, mammals and even fish. How is this possible? When you break it down, it actually makes sense. According Web MD, the reason we yawn is to simply cool the brain. When you yawn, the stretching of the jaw increases blood flow to the neck, face and head. When you inhale deeply, it draws blood down and away from the brain and at the same time, cool air enters your system. This is why yawning is said to occur more frequently in cooler temperatures.

photo credit: getty images

photo credit: getty images.

Have you ever been in a room with a few friends just relaxing and one of you begins yawning? You can probably guess what happens next. All of sudden a chain reaction has been set, and you all yawn…one after another! There is no denying it. Yawning is contagious! And the reason for this may be surprisingly more social based than physical. According to Discovery News, yawning when others yawn is a deep rooted sign of empathy and a form of social bonding. As humans we have a tendency to do what others do to be part of the norm.

When we see a yawn in motion our subconscious is triggered and the signal “yawn” is imprinted into our brain. Then our physiology takes over and out pops a yawn, and the next pot of coffee! We all have a need to team up together and socialize that begins from birth. Humans are not designed to function alone. It is recorded that yawning first occurs in the womb, even before we are born! It is mind blowing to think that our mind often has its own agenda, causing us to yawn whether we wanted to or not!

stock-photo-44837850-one-big-yawnUp late catching up on your favorite Netflix series? One thing you can bet on is a whole lot of yawning the next day! Yawning is often associated with being either bored or tired. One explanation for this is when we are tired we don’t breathe in as deeply and our body doesn’t take in as much oxygen. Yawning not only helps cool our system, but also brings more oxygen into the body. Another theory is that when tired, yawning stretches the lungs and lung tissue as well as muscles and joints causing us to feel more awake. Whatever it is, yawning is often seen as a symbol for a lack of sleep. It’s almost like a red flag your body waves saying “time for bed!” I’ve learned it is very important to listen to these little messages your body communicates. When I force myself to stay up when tired, I end up getting horrible headaches and overall very sluggish.

Final fun fact about yawning. It is an activity that can even help athletes prepare before competition! Speed skater Apolo Ohno is known for his pre-contest yawning ritual. Since yawning cools the brain, this ritual allows him to improve his concentration and attention span throughout the race!

So, how many times have you yawned while reading this blog?

Jenna KagawaJenna Kagawa is a Bedding Specialist at SlumberWorld in Kailua Kona. She is the happy mother of twins, Hali’a and Makoa. When not busy finding clients the perfect mattress or chasing her little ones – Jenna enjoys making jewelry, reading, shell collecting, and eating really good food! She is a total social media addict and loves photographing life.

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