Yawning is a mostly involuntary process of opening the mouth and
breathing in deeply, filling the lungs with air. It is a very natural response
to being tired. In fact, yawning is usually triggered by sleepiness or fatigue.
Some yawns are short, and some last for several seconds before an open-mouthed
exhale. Watery eyes, stretching, or audible sighs may accompany yawning.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why yawning occurs, but common
triggers include fatigue and boredom. Yawns may also occur when you talk about
yawning or see or hear someone else yawn. It is believed that contagious
yawning may have something to do with social communication. In addition, a
study published in the Applied
Journal of Basic Medical Research suggests that yawning may help cool the
temperature of the brain.
Excessive yawning is yawning that occurs more than once per
minute. Although excessive yawning is usually attributed to being sleepy or
bored, it may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem.
Certain conditions can cause a vasovagal reaction, which results
in excessive yawning. During a vasovagal reaction, there is increased activity
in the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain down to the throat and into
the abdomen. When the vagus nerve becomes more active, heart rate and blood
pressure drop significantly. The reaction can indicate anything from a sleep
disorder to a serious heart condition.
Talk to your doctor if you’ve noticed a sudden increase in your
yawning, especially if you’ve been yawning frequently for no apparent reason. Only
your doctor can determine whether or not the excessive yawning is occurring as
a result of a medical problem.
of Excessive Yawning
The exact cause of excessive yawning isn’t known. However, it may
occur as a result of:
- drowsiness, tiredness, or fatigue
- sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or
- side effects of medications that are used to
treat depression or anxiety, such as selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- bleeding in or around the heart
Although less common, excessive yawning could also indicate:
To identify the cause of excessive yawning, your doctor may first
ask you about your sleep habits. They will want to make sure that you are
getting adequate restful sleep. This can help them determine whether your excessive
yawning is occurring as a result of being fatigued or having a sleep disorder.
After ruling out sleep issues, your doctor will perform
diagnostic tests to find another possible cause for excessive yawning. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is
one of the tests that may be used. An EEG measures the electrical activity in
the brain. It can help your doctor diagnose epilepsy and other conditions
affecting the brain. Your doctor may also order an MRI scan. This test uses
powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body, which
can help doctors visualize and assess bodily structures. These pictures are
often used to diagnose spinal cord and brain disorders, such as tumors and
multiple sclerosis. An MRI scan is also beneficial for evaluating the function
of the heart and detecting heart problems.
If medications are causing excessive yawning, your doctor may
recommend a lower dosage. Make sure to discuss this with your doctor before making
any changes to your medications. You should never stop taking medications without
approval from your doctor.
If excessive yawning is occurring as a result of a sleep
disorder, your doctor may recommend sleep-aid medications or techniques for
getting more restful sleep. These may include:
- using a breathing device
- exercising to reduce stress
- adhering to a regular sleep schedule
If excessive yawning is a symptom of a serious medical condition,
such as epilepsy or liver failure, then the underlying problem must be treated