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What Are Your Yawns Trying to Tell You?

By Sara Butler

You probably think you already know what it means when you yawn – that you’re tired. Not so fast, Rip Van Winkle! There’s some new data out to challenge your notions about a yawn. Here are a few interesting facts about yawns and what your yawns just might be trying to tell you!

Yawns: What are They Good For?

You may have heard somewhere along the way that yawns are a sign of too little oxygen, but that’s not what recent studies have found. Researchers are starting to understand that yawns are totally separate from the action of breathing, and are actually controlled by a different part of the brain. Some people report yawning when they’re bored or tired, but there are also involuntary yawns that have nothing to do with how you’re feeling.

The Reasons for Yawn

Research is pointing to some pretty interesting reasons behind yawns. Your yawns might be a sign that:

  • You really like someone – If you’re yawning reflexively because someone else has, then it may just be an evolutionary throwback. You may catch other people’s yawns as a way to show solidarity and empathy with that person. The closer you are to someone, the more contagious their yawn is.
  • Your brain is too hot – A yawn may be an indication that your brain needs a cooldown. A popular theory surfacing these days is that you yawn when your brain is too hot. This might explain why, when people are sleep deprived, they yawn more – because the brain runs warmer when not getting enough sleep. Also, people tend to yawn more in cooler months than warmer ones.
  • Your brain is big – Not to toot your own horn, but the bigger your brain the more you might yawn. Research has shown that animals, such as humans, who have big yawns also tend to have larger brains with more brain cells.
  • You might be having a heart attack – Not to alarm you, but excessive yawning may be the sign of a heart attack, stroke or tumor. That’s because these conditions can stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs between your abdomen and your brain. If it’s triggered by a health event, then it may make you yawn – more than you can imagine. So much so, you’ll know something isn’t right.

Who knew yawning could mean so many different things? What do you think your yawns have been trying to tell you? Hopefully, reading this didn’t make you yawn too much!

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