Do you yawn all the time? Has it gotten to the point where you feel like you cannot get through a day without fighting the urge to yawn repeatedly?
Excessive yawning is a problem for many individuals. It may be due to something as simple as fatigue or a certain medication you are taking, or it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition at play. Today, we will break down what makes us yawn, the causes behind excessive yawning, and the diagnosis and treatment options available.
What Makes Us Yawn?
Before delving into the causes behind yawning, it is important to understand what constitutes as excessive yawning. Yawning is a natural bodily process that occurs when your mouth opens; you take in a deep breath and allow your lungs to fill with air.
Most of us yawn when we are tired. You may have watery eyes, stretch, or sigh when you yawn. Some yawns can be very brief, while others last as long as four or five seconds. Exhaustion and sheer boredom are two of the most common causes of yawning.
Sometimes, if you see someone near you yawn, this can trigger you to yawn. However, excessive yawning happens more than one time per minute. While excessive yawning may also result from fatigue or boredom, there could be more serious medical issues present that require attention.
Some medical conditions lead to vasovagal stimulation, which causes yawning. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, this results in heightened vasovagal activity. This nerve goes all the way from your brain, through your throat, and into your abdomen.
An overactive vagus nerve can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to lower considerably. If this happens, something as common as a sleep disorder or as serious as heart disease could be at play. If you have noticed yourself yawning with greater frequency and for no particular reason, speak with your doctor to determine if there is a medical condition that requires treatment.
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One unusual reason we yawn is that it results in brain cooling. As you yawn and extend your jaw, this heightens blood flow throughout your head, face, and neck. When you breathe in deeply, the yawn causes spinal fluid and blood to travel downward from the brain.
The cool air you inhale during yawning then cools the spinal fluid and blood. Yawning works to make sure the blood in your brain is not too hot. As cooler blood flows upward from your lungs and limbs, this keeps your brain cool.
Along the same lines, another important reason we yawn is cool weather. If breathing in has a cooling effect on the brain, then cold air outside should do the same thing.
Social And Psychological Reasons
There are some key social and psychological reasons behind why we yawn. When you see someone you are speaking with or looking at yawn, you are far more likely to yawn than you otherwise would have been. Yawning has a catapult effect.
Social yawning is most definitely an involuntary response and there is no clear idea for how it helps us as human beings communicate or reach a goal with one another. Yet, yawning has a social impact on the brain and the way it functions.
Yawning can work as an effective social cue, to signal when you are tired or very bored. A yawn is a subtle way to get the message across that you are not particularly enjoying yourself, without coming on too strong.
Yawns are vague signals, to be sure, but they bring a distinct point across, even if it is just that you are tired and ready for sleep. The key aspect to remember is that yawning is not a mechanism you can control.
Yawning is induced by psychological processes beyond your reach. So, if you happen to yawn in your next work meeting, do not feel bad. This is not a message of disrespect, rather, it is a complex bodily process beyond your control.
Excessive Yawning Causes
Too Much Heat
There are several reasons you might experience excessive yawning. As you have just learned, yawning has a cooling effect on the brain and the fluids transmitting to and from it. Well, one cause for your yawning could be that your brain is experiencing too much heat and needs to cool off.
As you breathe deeply in the yawn, hot blood flows away from your brain and cool air permeates your lungs. You could compare yawns to radiators, cooling you down with each cleansing breath. While this reason for yawning might annoy, it is not inherently serious or a cause for alarm.
Another reason you might have excessive yawning is that you are exhausted. If you are not getting enough sleep, the temperature in your brain heats up. This means that your body will prompt you to yawn to cool your brain off.
Alas, yawning will not ease your exhaustion or wake you out of your sleepy state. It will help you achieve better concentration once your brain cools down. If you have excessive yawning because you are not getting enough sleep, consider consulting with your physician to see if a sleep disorder like narcolepsy or sleep apnea could be the issue.
The Power Of Suggestion
We touched upon this briefly, but one common cause for yawning all goes back to the power of suggestion. If you see someone near you yawn, chances are you might yawn too. This is particularly the case if you are talking with or look at the person who yawns.
Certain medications may induce excessive yawning. Medications like SSRIs, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which treat anxiety and depression disorders are common contributors to yawning.
There might be a serious cause behind your excessive yawning that may require furthering examination and the care of a medical professional. While rare occurrences, conditions like bleeding around or in the heart, a heart attack, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, liver failure, epilepsy, and unregulated body temperature may cause excessive yawning.
How To Treat Excessive Yawning
Reaching A Diagnosis
The first step to treat excessive yawning is to reach a firm diagnosis. If you are concerned you have a sleep disorder or medical condition causing your excessive yawning, book an appointment with your physician immediately so you can work towards a diagnosis.
Your doctor will probably inquire regarding your sleep patterns, to see if you are getting sufficient rest every night. These kinds of questions help your doctor identify if your yawning is due to exhaustion or a sleep disorder.
If your doctor decides that a sleep disorder is not at the root of your excessive yawning, they will run diagnostics to see what the cause may be. Electroencephalograms are one of the most common diagnostic tests, which look for electrical patterns in your brain.
These diagnostic tools can assist your doctor in identifying whether epilepsy or another condition is causing your yawning. MRIs are another useful diagnostic tool your doctor may order. An MRI uses magnetic and radio frequency to take photos of your body, helping your practitioner see and determine the state of your body’s key functions.
MRIs are useful for reaching a diagnosis of a brain or spinal cord disorder like multiple sclerosis or tumors. MRI scans are also effective at assessing how your heart is working and seeing if there are any heart issues present.
If a certain medication you are taking is causing your excessive yawning, the doctor may alter your dosage and advise that you take a lower amount. You should always speak with your doctor before adjusting your medication dosages. Do not cease taking prescribed medications without first speaking with your doctor.
If a sleep disorder is causing your yawning, the doctor might advise certain sleep-aid prescriptions or approaches to help you get a better night’s sleep. Your doctor could recommend you get a breathing device to use at night. They will also probably advise you to exercise to lower your stress levels and keep to a set sleep pattern so your body can adjust.
It can be easy to ignore something as deceivingly simple as excessive yawning, brushing it off as due to little sleep. That said, if your excessive yawning is caused by an underlying medical condition, you need to deal with the issue at once to ensure it does not progress and worsen.
The treatment options available to you will depend on the severity of the disorder. Always consult with your doctor if a diagnosis of a medical condition is reached, so you can deal with it and your excessive yawning without delay.
image source: flickr.com
While excessive yawning may annoy, it is not always caused by a serious medical condition. Sometimes, yawning is due to something as simple as exhaustion, boredom, or the power of suggestion. However, if your yawning stems from a sleep disorder or medical condition, speak with your doctor right away to map out the treatment plan right for you.
Alice grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in California, though she likes to visit home frequently. She graduated from a marketing specialist degree and worked at the core of outreach teams for more than 5 years.