Why do we yawn?

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As we try our hardest to stay awake or even if we are craving a mid-afternoon nap, we can always count on a yawn escaping our mouths. They also say that yawns are contagious, and as someone sees another person yawn, they feel the sudden urge to yawn themselves.

Yawning is a phenomenon with many different theories and hypotheses, however, a scientific justification of why we yawn has yet to be discovered. One of the most reoccurring explanations of why people yawn is the theory that a yawn helps the body draw in a large amount of air that increases the body’s blood pressure, heart rate, as well as oxygen levels. This increase in those three factors help make us more alert and awake, making it easier to function.

Some experiments, however, contradict this explanation and have showed that yawning does not in fact do these three things. This is not the only explanation that has been “lacking the scientific evidence” to justify the reasoning behind yawns. Other scientists have given the reason of human’s yawning because it “cools down the brain.” This is another scientific theory that has not enough scientific evidence behind it to make it a proven fact.

Contagious yawning, “social” yawning, is said to happen because when someone sees another person yawn, they feel the need to provide empathy and and mimicry. This is just like the way people laugh when others laugh, smile when others smile, and are more somber and calm when other people are also somber and calm. However, people that have shown higher levels of empathy are actually more likely to also yawn as they see their peers or even total strangers yawn.


Feature  image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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