Why Do We Yawn??


There’s nothing better than a huge jaw aching yawn. Sometimes even a double whammy. And the little noise that comes with it.

It’s so satisfying. Almost as good as a sneeze.

I was sitting at work the other day yawning uncontrollably and it got me pondering… why am I sitting here yawning? Why can’t I stop?

Probably due to boredom or tiredness or being influenced by other yawners around me or something, I thought.

So I decided to do a little research.

Why do we yawn? What’s the point? What does it do?

Well unfortunately there’s no definitive answer to those questions. No matter how much research I did, it appears scientists are still baffled by the ever famed yawn.

But there are plenty of theories. Some based on fact. Some just utter bullshit. But funny all the same.

Of course most of us associate yawning with being tired or bored, which is sort of true.

According to some site somewhere in the depths of the internet, our bodies try to keep us awake with a big yawn, rushing all that oxygen around our system and maximising lung capacity.

So yes, more yawning does mean you are a little tired and/or bored. And your body is doing its best to keep you alert. Aww thanks body.

But yawning has other uses too. Including trying to cool you down.

Something about it regulating body temperature? All that air being pumped around the brain helps to chill it out (literally) and thus make it work like a gem.

It’s just the brain though. When it comes to cooling down the rest of us, that’s when all the lovely juicy salty sweat starts trickling out of our pores. We all love that right…

There’s also the empathy theory. According to some scientist people, yawning is closely linked to our feelings of empathy with others, thus being why it is contagious.

Which I guess makes sense.

We see someone yawning and we yawn too because we feel empathetic towards them. Subconsciously of course. Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it.

And the closer you are (emotionally) to the person that you witness having a good old yawn, the more likely you are to yawn too!

How strange.

But now I think about it, it’s pretty true.

Although even reading about yawning can make you do it. Have you yawned yet whilst reading this?


But now you’re thinking about it…

Go on… have a nice big yawn.

I’m making myself yawn just writing this.

Anyway, a slightly more debatable theory as to why we yawn when we see others do it is this: Our brains worry that the other person is taking up all the oxygen and therefore makes us yawn too in order to get the oxygen into our bodies.

Hmmm. Not sure about that one. A bit far-fetched?

Back in the day, our ancestors used to yawn at each other as a means of baring teeth and intimidating others. A defence mechanism almost. Which clashes with the empathy theory a bit doesn’t it?

All the family will start getting empathetic and intimidating each other surely?

But then apparently it was also used as a way of co-ordinating sleep patterns with each other.

And then there are the Ancient Greeks…

They thought that a yawn was someone’s soul trying to escape from their body and that if you didn’t cover your mouth whilst yawning then evil spirits could come and enter your body and ruin you completely. Then the devil would come along and steal your soul forever.

Ever the optimists.

Anyway, so it appears yawning does have its uses.

On average, we yawn about a quarter of a million times in our lifetime. Which doesn’t really seem like a lot when you think about it.

I’m pretty sure I’ve achieved half of that already just by sitting here composing this article.

I hope you’ve been yawning your way through this too.

So the next time you yawn and some annoying person says not keeping you up are we? Or oh am I boring you? You can now baffle them with your brilliant knowledge on yawning.

Or just say yes.

Either will do nicely.

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