Yawwwn…. Goooood Mooorninnnng!

As a person who succumbs to awkwardness and anxious feelings almost every day… I’ve noticed that whenever I am about to go into a situation that brings out anxious feelings, I tend to yawn.

My mother has often chastised me that this makes me look disinterested in a moment when I should appear to be starting up into high gear.  But is yawning actually the exact response your body needs to rev up your engines and get ready to face the worst?

Is yawning a form of self-medication or a means to calm my brain?  Or is it a sign that I’m too tired to possibly perform under high pressure?

So I decided to get some answers.  And answers I received, as my little Tintin-esque investigative reporter brain decided to search for the truth.

Apparently, we “yawn during times of stress: Olympic athletes often do it before a race, while musicians sometimes succumb before a concert. So some researchers, including Provine, believe that the strenuous movements might have a more general role in rebooting the brain – when you are sleepy they make you more alert, or when you are distracted they make you more focused.”

Cute and contagious yawn - gif via
Cute and contagious yawn – gif via

But also, yawning seems contagious.  ““Around 50% of people who observe a yawn will yawn in response,” he says. “It is so contagious that anything associated with it will trigger one… seeing or hearing another person, or even reading about yawning.” For this reason, some researchers have wondered if yawning might be a primitive form of communication – if so, what information is it transmitting?”

Personally, I think when we yawn an alien is taking over our body and transmitting to other aliens a very important message.  And when an entire room-full of aliens yawns, that we are probably getting attention from the Mothership.  So guys, stop yawning already.  We do NOT want those aliens to invade Amurrica!  Just stop it.

No, but seriously, there are many theories about yawning.  If we go back in time, “Arguably the first studier of yawns was the Greek physician Hippocrates nearly 2,500 years ago. He believed that yawning helped to release noxious air, particularly during a fever. “Like the large quantities of steam that escape from cauldrons when water boils, the accumulated air in the body is violently expelled through the mouth when the body temperature rises,” he wrote. Different incarnations of the idea lingered until the 19th Century, when scientists instead proposed that yawning aids respiration – triggering a rush of oxygen into the blood supply, while flushing out the carbon dioxide. If that were true, you would expect people to yawn more or less frequently depending on the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. Yet when Provine asked volunteers to breathe various mixtures of gases, he found no such change.”

A very dramatic yawn - gif via
A very dramatic yawn – gif via

A theory I agree with is that “yawning might help to chill the brain and stop it overheating. The violent movement of the jaws moves blood flow around the skull, he argued, helping to carry away excess heat, while the deep inhalation brings cool air into the sinus cavities and around the carotid artery leading back into the brain. What’s more, the strenuous movements could also flex the membranes of sinuses – fanning a soft breeze through the cavities that should cause our mucus to evaporate, which should chill the head like air conditioning.”

This makes perfect sense to me, and it explains why I yawn right before I need perform.  It chills my overheated brain, much like pouring some coolant into an overheating engine might do.  Plus, yawning is like taking a cooling deep breath before gameday, but it messes with your competition because nothing says “I got this” more than a nice loud yawn in your opponent’s face before you KRUSH him on the field of a Hunger Games death match.  I’m just saying, yawning makes emotional ole Mira into a calm, emotionless psychopath.
Ok, ok, how did we get from me being an anxious nerd to a Hunger Games killing machine?  Obviously, I was having an inspired moment.

Anyways, do you yawn?  (i.e. are you an alien?)  In what situations do you find yourself yawning most?

Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!

Featured image via.

4 thoughts on “Why Do We Yawn?

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