Why Do We Yawn? Learn Why and Other Fascinating Facts About the Reflex

Even thinking about yawning can cause a person to do it. Yawning is something everybody does, including animals, and you shouldn’t try to stifle it because when you yawn, it’s because your body just might need it. It’s one of the most contagious, uncontrollable actions our bodies perform. A yawn is such a strange experience that you might have wondered to yourself: why do we yawn? The answer is complicated! In fact, there is no scientific consensus out there as to why we do it. But, there are some theories that hold clues about the bodily function.

For a very long time, it was thought that yawning was a way for the body to get more oxygen into it. Unfortunately, that theory has been debunked as a myth. While we might not be able to concretely explain why yawns occur, there are some really interesting theories that scientists have put forward and we think you’ll love to learn about the possibilities. Keep reading to learn more about yawning and why we do it.

Why Do We Yawn? Discover the Possible Answers Below and Some Fascinating Facts About Our Bodies.

why do we yawn?

Current research suggests a correlation between brain temperature and yawning as well as it potentially being an empathic response. So, do we yawn to regulate brain temperature or do we yawn because others are yawning around us?

Even If You’re Not Tired, Yawns Happen

why do we yawn?
Instagram

The most scientifically backed theory about why we yawn has to do with brain temperature regulation. A 2014 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior looked at the yawning habits of 120 people and found that yawning occurred less during the winter than in summer. If the brain’s temperature gets too far outside of the normal range, inhaling air can help cool it down.

Yawning When You’re Tired

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Why do we yawn when we’re tired? It might be your body trying to stimulate your brain. When we’re tired, the brain slows down causing the temperature to drop. But, stick a pin in this topic because we will return to it.

Why Do We Yawn When We’re Bored?

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Boredom is a lack of stimulation and that’s not only true for you when you feel it. When our brains get bored they slow down, causing the temperature to drop. Yawning helps stimulate the brain and raises the temperature back to. a normal range.

Why Do We Yawn When We See Someone Else Yawn?

why do we yawn?
Instagram

In general, when you’re in the same environment as another person, you’re both exposed to the same stimuli and the actual temperature that surrounds you. That means that both people or multiple people can share the same set of circumstances that causes yawning.

Does Yawning Wake Us Up?

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Another reason you may yawn is due to the body wanting to wake itself up. The physical motion helps stretch the lungs and their tissues, and it allows the body to flex its muscles and joints. Evidence also suggests that yawns also force blood toward your face and brain to increase alertness.

Other Possibilities for Why Yawning Is Contagious

BuzzFeed / YouTube

Yes, yawning is contagious and, no, you’re not imagining it. Yawning is so contagious that even videos of people yawning can make you yawn. In the above video, created by BuzzFeed, people are shown yawning. Try watching the video and see if it will also make you yawn. We’ll let you know just what it could mean after you’ve viewed it.

Did You Yawn?

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Did the video make you yawn? If it did, that could be a really good signal. According to a Baylor study reported by Healthline, yawning after you see someone else yawn means that you’re expressing empathy and a readiness to bond with another person.

More on the Baylor Study

why do we yawn?
Instagram

The study, which was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, looked at 135 college students, their personalities, and how they reacted to different facial movements. The results showed that the less empathy a person had, the less likely they would yawn after seeing someone else yawn.

However, You’re Not a Psychopath If You Did Not Yawn

why do we yawn?
Instagram

You might not have yawned while watching the video and if you did not, there is no reason to worry! The results of the Baylor study cannot be generalized. This means that not yawning does not indicate psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies.

How Do You Stop Yawning?

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Sometimes you catch a case of the yawns and you cannot stop yawning once you have started. A lack of sleep is generally the cause but there are some things you can do to help yourself out. It’s actually pretty easy to stop a yawning fit scenario.

Nasal Breathing

why do we yawn?

If you are excessively yawning, practice deep, nasal breathing. That just means for you to take deep breaths through your nose. A 2007 study also found that nasal breathing decreased contagious yawning completely in their research.

Tips for Better Sleep and Less Yawning

why do we yawn?

For better quality sleep and fewer yawns, exercise more. Also, limiting caffeine and alcohol will help. Further, creating a comfortable sleeping environment and sticking to a sleep schedule will also help you get the most restful and restorative sleep possible.

Other Ways to Stop Yawns

why do we yawn?

Get that body moving! Breaking up a routine will also help stimulate your brain. Feelings of tiredness, boredom, and stress tend to make people yawn even more. Excessive yawning may also stem from taking in too much caffeine or going through an opiate detox.

Time to Cool Off

why do we yawn?

As we mentioned, yawning is likely a result of brain temperature. That means that cooling yourself off will likely help you from yawning. You can try taking a walk outside or finding a space with a cooler temperature. If you don’t have time to go for a walk, drink some cool water or eat a chilled snack, such as fruit or baby carrots.

RELATED: Why Do We Have Eyebrows? Learn the Fascinating Reason and Interesting Facts About Your Brows

When Should You See a Doctor?

why do we yawn?

You should get medical advice from a doctor or licensed health official if you feel like you’re excessively yawning. If the yawning or other symptoms keep you from carrying about your day-to-day life, tell your doctor when you started yawning, other symptoms such as brain fog or pain in certain areas, and if you’ve had a lack of sleep. This information can help your doctor diagnose the underlying condition and make treatment recommendations based on individual needs.

Other Potential Causes for Excessive Yawning

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy, could be the reason behind your excessive yawning. Further, many medications used to treat depression and anxiety can cause it. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are notorious for causing it, according to Healthline.

It Could Be Serious

why do we yawn?

Although far less common, excessive yawning could also be a sign of health conditions that can include:

  • a heart attack, especially if you are experiencing other common related symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, upper body discomfort, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath
  • epilepsy, particularly in the presence of frontal lobe involvement
  • neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • liver failure, which may be experienced as fatigue
  • a brain tumor, though this would be extremely rare

Why Do We Call It a Yawn?

why do we yawn?
Instagram

The Latin term used in medicine is oscitatio from the verb oscito meaning “to open the mouth.” The English word “yawn” comes from gionian in Old English, meaning “open the mouth wide.”

Yawning Might Serve a Different Purpose for Other Animals

why do we yawn?

In animals, yawning can serve as a warning signal. Charles Darwin’s book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, mentions that baboons do it to threaten their enemies, possibly by displaying their large canine teeth.

Yes, FIsh Also Do It

why do we yawn?

Did you know that fish also yawn? It’s a pretty wild fact considering they do not breathe in the same way as land-dwelling creatures. But, they might be doing it for another reason than we do. Siamese fighting fish do it only when they see a conspecific (same species) or their own mirror-image, and their yawn often accompanies an aggressive attack

Some Penguins Do It as Part of Their Courtship

why do we yawn?

Adelie penguins use yawning as part of their courtship ritual. Penguin couples face off and the males engage in what is described as an “ecstatic display”, opening their beaks and pointing their faces skyward. This trait has also been seen among emperor penguins. Researchers have been attempting to discover why these two different species share this trait, despite not sharing a habitat.

Snakes Yawn for a Disturbing Reason

why do we yawn?

Snakes yawn, both to realign their jaws after a meal and for respiratory reasons, as their trachea can be seen to expand when they do this. How creepy is that?

Yes, Your Dog Is Catching Your Contagious Yawns

why do we yawn?
Instagram

Dogs, and occasionally cats, often yawn after seeing people yawn and when they feel uncertain. Dogs demonstrate contagious yawning when exposed to human yawning. Dogs are very adept at reading human communication actions, so it is unclear if this phenomenon is rooted in evolutionary history or a result of domestication.

Folks Were Once Superstitious About It

why do we yawn?

Back in the day, people had some pretty wild beliefs about yawning including that it was an evil or good spirit entering or exiting the body. It’s because of the belief that in the Medieval period people would make the sign of the cross over their mouths before, after, and during a yawn. Polydore Vergil, a humanist scholar, recorded instances of it between 1470 and 1555.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Why Do We Have Middle Names? Learn Truth Behind This Age-Old Practice

Even George Washington Had Something to Say About It

why do we yawn?

One of the United States’ founding fathers believed that yawning was rude to do in public. It’s been seen as a sign of boredom and a social faux pas for centuries. “If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside,” Washington once said.

If you liked learning about the physiological response and want to learn more about the human body and how we’ve adapted through the ages, consider reading about why we have eyebrows. It’s truly fascinating and will really open your eyes!

Why Do We Have Eyebrows?

why do we have eyebrows?

It was originally thought that the reason we have eyebrows was to keep rain and sweat out of our eyes. That’s partly true and the reason humans evolved with them. As a species, we humans rely on our sight more than any other sense, and with no eyebrows, water can get in and very much blur our vision. Eyebrows may also deflect debris and shield our eyes from the sun. 

Understanding How We Evolved

why do we have eyebrows?

As we evolved over years and years we began to lose our body hair. Scientists believe that the reason we evolved without fur was to reduce the risk of biting flies and other parasites that live in fur and to enhance sexual attractiveness. So, why did two patches of hair remain on our faces?

Express Yourself

why do we have eyebrows?

As we evolved our eyebrows stayed on because they are hugely important to the way communicate. Think about it. Most of our facial expressions, the way we show emotion, incorporate the eyebrows. Our facial expressions often convey our true feelings even when we tell a lie. A genuine facial expression is surprisingly hard to fake!

Now, We’re Talking

why do we have eyebrows?

Our eyebrows enhance and exaggerate our expressions. Just look to cartoons and comics as an example of this. A simple line over the eyes conveys anger or fear. Raised eyebrows, often times comically overdone in the case of cartoons, show intrigue and surprise.

There Are Studies to Prove It

why do we have eyebrows?

Experiments have shown that we can recognize a familiar face more easily when the eyes are blanked out than when the eyebrows are. Think about that. We often throw around the adage “the eyes are the windows to the soul” but it’s actually our eyebrows!

More to Learn About Eyebrows

why do we have eyebrows?

There are a surprising number of hairs in our eyebrows! The average person has about 250 hairs that make up a brow. For those who do not pluck and have bushier and bigger eyebrows, that number is much more! According to Bosley, some brows contain as many as 1100 hairs.

Why Do Your Eyebrow Hairs Fall Out?

why do we have eyebrows?

You might have noticed a brow hair on your hand after wiping your sweaty face. It’s very common for eyebrow hairs to fall out. In fact, your brows have a lifespan. The average lifespan of an eyebrow is just four months! Each hair falls out and a new one grows every few months for most folks. Love them while you’ve got them.

Why, Yes, Your Eyebrows Can Have Cowlicks

why do we have eyebrows?

Just like with the hair on your head, your eyebrow hairs can form a cowlick. Cowlicks are patches of hair that grow in the opposite direction from the rest around it. When it comes to eyebrows, cowlicks are most common for people with curly or wavy hair.

However, You Can Tame Those Cowlicks

why do we have eyebrows?

When trimming your brows, you need to trim in the direction the hairs are growing. If you come across a cowlick in there, you need to take a close look at the growth pattern and trim accordingly because those wayward hairs are never going to grow in the same direction as the rest of your brow hairs.

There Is a Season Your Eyebrows Like More Than Others

why do we have eyebrows?

You might think that our eyebrows grow more in the winter because of the cold like an evolutionary way to keep your face warm. But, you would be wrong! Our eyebrows grow much faster in the summer. They are more active in the summer because we, as humans, are more active in the hot weather. Warm weather activates the brows and encourages growth. If you’ve ever needed an excuse for an exotic vacation in the dead of winter, you’re welcome.

Stress Plays a Part in Eyebrow Growth

why do we have eyebrows?

Just like the hair on your head, stress dramatically decreases the amount your hair grows. In fact, stress can make your eyebrows fall out. If not falling all out, stress can also slow the speed at which your brows grow. In salons, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of this. It’s common for a bride’s eyebrows to not grow in before the big day and then, once the honeymoon is over, the brows very quickly grow in. This is why we all need outlets for our stress. If not for your health, do it for your brows.

Why Do Brow Hairs Not Grow as Long as the Hair on Your Head?

why do we have eyebrows?

All hair grows at the same rate, 0.25-0.3 millimeters per day. Depending on your hair type, this varies. Eyebrow hairs have a shorter lifespan of generally 30 days while the hairs on our heads generally stick around for two to five years. This is why we don’t have cascading locks of hair sprouting from our eyebrows. Your genes play a huge role in how long and fast your brow hairs grow. It’s different for everyone.

The Follicle Tries to Save a Hair After It’s Been Plucked

why do we have eyebrows?

If you’ve ever noticed a bump or bumps after you tweeze or wax your eyebrows, that’s the hair follicle closing in an attempt to save the hair. In general, the bump(s) disappear after a couple of hours. So, if you think you’ve broken out right after styling your eyebrows, think again. It’s just the follicle.

Humans Have Been Styling Their Eyebrows for a While

why do we have eyebrows?

In just about every culture around the world, people beautify their eyebrows. This is also true for various time periods of the past. For instance, in Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance folks shaved off their eyebrows entirely. On the other hand, the elite colonizers in 18th-century America made their eyebrows look larger with grey moose skin. Gross!

The Mona Lisa Is Missing Something

why do we have eyebrows?

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa portrait is one of the world’s most cherished paintings. Take a closer look and you’ll notice that she does not have any eyebrows. Art historians believe that she did once have eyebrows but the artist later removed them. Another theory is that they were accidentally removed during restoration.

Today, We’re Eyebrow Focused

why do we have eyebrows?
Amazon

In contemporary times, we’ve seen an eyebrow beauty revival. Today, it’s estimated that about 50% of Americans style their eyebrows as part of their daily beauty routine. That’s up quite a bit from 2015 when it was only 28%!

Unibrows Have a Bad Reputation Today But That Was Not Always the Case

why do we have eyebrows?

Today, many people who have the ability to grow a unibrow go to great lengths to separate their eyebrow into two brows. Throughout history, in a variety of cultures, the unibrow was seen as an asset. Many folks believed that the brow was a sign of intelligence. Further, in other cultures, it was considered a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case today.

Does the Shape of Your Eyebrows Say Something About Your Personality?

why do we have eyebrows?

According to Amazing Face Reading by Marc Fuller, if you have straight eyebrows you might be more fact-oriented and direct. If they are slightly curved, you’re likely to be more people-oriented. Isn’t that just fascinating? Take a look at your brows and see if that holds true for you.

When Do They Go Grey?

why do we have eyebrows?

You might think that eyebrow hairs turn grey at the same time as the head on your head but your eyebrows are on a different trajectory. In general, eyebrows go grey about five years after the hair on your head. That means those brows will look about more youthful longer than your head hair.

What About Eyelashes?

why do we have eyebrows?
Instagram

Your eyelashes serve many of the same purposes as your eyebrows. They protect your eyes from the elements and help maintain your vision. But, unlike eyebrows, eyelashes are closer to a cat’s whiskers. Yes, you read that correctly. Keep reading to learn more.

How Are Eyelashes Like Cat Whiskers?

why do we have eyebrows?

Our eyelashes are like tiny little sensors. If something gets too close to the face, they will alert your brain and you’ll instinctively blink. Further, they can detect particles in the air like dust or allergens and that’s when your eye might feel irritated and be more prone to close and/or blink.

How Many Lashes?

why do we have eyebrows?
Instagram

The upper and lower lashes have a significant difference. Your upper lash line has a lot more hair than your lower lash line. With roughly 200 to 300 lashes, they’re almost twice as full. You have roughly 100 on your lower lid. They also differ in length. The lashes in the middle are usually significantly longer than those on the sides.

What About Length?

why do we have eyebrows?
Instagram

The record for the longest eyelash was 2.75 inches. Those are some really long ones! The precise measurement was 6.99 centimeters. And, believe it or not, this record is held by a man. The typical lash length is approximately 10 millimeters.

Like Eyebrows, We Shed Lashes

why do we have eyebrows?
Instagram

Every two weeks, a person can lose up to 20% of their natural lashes on average. Natural eyelashes grow in and out in cycles that last anywhere from 60 to 90 days. A person can normally shed between 1 and 5 natural lashes each day, depending on their specific lash growth cycles. A new eyelash has been growing to replace the one that has fallen out, yet most of us aren’t even aware of it!

Contents

About Mamas Uncut

Mamas Uncut is THE online place for moms. We cover the latest about motherhood, parenting, and entertainment as well – all with a mom-focused twist. So if you're looking for parenting advice from real parents, we have plenty of it, all for moms from moms, and also experts. Because, at the end of the day, our mission is focused solely on empowering moms and moms-to-be with the knowledge and answers they’re looking for in one safe space.

.