Medical and Science

Why Do We Yawn and Why is it Contagious

Yawning Cat

Photo by [dan]

Why do we yawn, now that’s a good question. Better yet, why is yawning contagious? These are a couple of very good questions and I went in search of answers. I know you are all dying to know as well, so I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about why we yawn and why in the world is it so darn contagious!

Have you ever Seen someone yawning and then it happens! You can feel it creeping up on you, your jaws start to clench, maybe your eyes water a bit and bam, You Yawn! It can be quite embarrassing at times and not only that, but some people find it a bit rude.

Of course we can not help it, yawning is a natural thing and we all do it. Anyone that tells you they don’t yawn is lying. They probably sneak off and yawn in private or something…lol

But I’m sure everyone has noticed that humans aren’t the only ones who yawn. There’s a bunch of animals that will yawn as well. Domesticated dogs and cats are the world’s worst. My little poodle Jack yawns all the time. And in fact, even his yawns are contagious! 🙂

Why Do We Yawn

Many folks will yawn while faced with a boring situation or sometimes even a nervous situation can cause the same effect. Some scientists will say that yawning is a way of the body waking us up when we’re in a situation that requires us to stay awake or alert. This is interesting because anytime I’ve driven on the highways at night I’m yawning like a crazy person. So this theory kind of makes sense to me.

There was an experiment done by Italian researchers where they videotaped premature infants that were in ICU care. The study showed that the babies cried both when going to sleep as well as when waking up. So in conclusion, the scientists stated that yawning was an indication of a changing state of arousal in the body. Of course the transition between sleeping and waking would be such an arousal. No dirty minds out there now! 😉

Many people believe that yawning is a way of increasing the oxygen levels in our bodies. But from what I understand, this isn’t the case. Another yawning experiment was conducted on a group of university students on just this sort of thing. They actually put themselves in different rooms that contained either higher or lower oxygen levels to see how the body would react. Well, come to find out, the students were yawning just as much in the low oxygen level rooms as they did in the rooms with more oxygen. So that kind of blows that theory out of the water.

Here’s something interesting though… There are some diseases that are linked to yawning, although there isn’t any clear explanation as to why. Excessive yawning is said to be connected to a wide variety of medical conditions. Most of these are diseases of the brain such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. But on the “flip side” schizophrenia patients are said to hardly yawn at all, go figure. So this leads us to our next question, why is yawning contagious.

Why is Yawning Contagious

Well first of all, yawning is definitely contagious, I don’t care who you are. If you’re in the room with someone and they bust out a nice big yawn, then you’re going to follow suite. If you don’t, then you’re definitely fighting back the urge.

In fact I bet some of you that are reading this right now have yawned a couple of times just from reading about it. They do say that even the act of reading, hearing or thinking about yawning can produce some pretty good yawns.

One interesting theory is that yawning was naturally developed as a form of communication. Possibly developed during a time that languages were formed. Maybe caveman days, who knows. But it’s supposed to be a communicative way of informing each other that we need to stay awake or alert. This brings me to believe it may be an instinctual thing.

Something similarly along those lines suggests that yawns evolved from our ancestors as a social behavior and a way to help create a stronger bond between members of social groups. Picture this, a groups of folks are sitting around socializing and one begins to yawn. He’s telling the group that it’s time to take a nap or go to sleep. So then the rest of the group yawns in return signaling that they agree with him. Seeing how babies are unaware of the social communication of yawning, they will not yawn contagiously until they are around one year old.

So that’s it folks, those are my Odd Random Thoughts on Why Do We Yawn and Why is it Contagious.

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46 thoughts on “Why Do We Yawn and Why is it Contagious
    1. Oh yah for sure. Reading is a great way to heavy the eyelids in preparation for a good nights sleep. It can also be good practice in producing dreams.

  1. Pretty neat post, I learned a few things I didn’t realize. I’m going to have to read some of your other posts.

  2. Scientists have theorized that dogs yawn when they are bored. If you are an observant pet owner you will see at once that the pet is bored. Most often the dog will look at you with imploring eyes, yawn and then flop to the ground. The dog is telling you “come on, play with me”

    1. Yep, my puppy Jack is a live wire and is always wanting to play. Sometimes us older folks don’t always feel like playing, but I feel bad for him and usually give in. It’s hard to resist when he comes up to me and lays his toy on my leg!

      1. I completely agree with you Robert. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing and yes the guilt comes into quickly. LOL. Can’t help it when I look at her precious puppy face.
        Would you happen to know the breed of dog in the photo linked to the post? Gorgeous dog and a fabulous article!

  3. Ha, good read – sometimes you’ll get those annoying bouts of multiple yawns right after each other. Even in mid day, this can happen, and I always thought that was weird.

    1. Yep, it can be quite aggravating Emily. Especially when they’re happening one right after the other like you said. This is for sure a big sign you’re quite bored! 😀

  4. While reading this article I can’t control my self to laugh specially with the comments LOL. Well for, I yawned contagious when I am bored and too sleepy.

    1. Hey thanks Brian! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Yawning can be such a pain in the backside, especially if you’re in a situation that is supposed to be serious, everyone looks at you like you’re rude. But little do they know you’re just trying to pay close attention. 🙂

  5. I just wandering why yawn is so easy to passed to each other and then I found your article. This is a great information you’ve been researched 😀 I probably has yawned few times after reading so many ‘yawn’ word. lol
    Great job !

    1. LOL, yep it’s ridiculous how contagious yawning is. It’s got to be some hidden form of communication from primitive times.

  6. When your body necessity rife oxygen, you gape.

    When you yawn, you take rife oxygen in the air.

    If the thickness of the oxygen in the wind becomes pinpoint, other people can sensate that and start to gape to get rife oxygen.

    1. Very interesting analogy zablss. I think it is quite possible that the human body has the ability to sense the amount of oxygen in the air around them. At that point the unconscious mind would take over and begin to feed on it. Thanks for the input on this!

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