People yawn for numerous different reasons. You might have found yourself yawning while trying to stay awake while driving your car. You’ve certainly yawned after seeing some of your friends yawning or even while reading this article, also known as contagious yawning. Basically, yawning is a natural involuntary response when you feel bored or tired.
However, if you find yourself yawning excessively, it might be a symptom of a sleep problem or even a serious medical condition. Persons who yawn excessively tend to suffer from an underlying medical problem which, in fact, is causing the yawning. Knowing the indicators of excessive yawning can help identify and treat the root cause.
That’s why we dedicated this article to excessive yawning to help you resolve your issues related to it. So, let’s begin!
What Is Yawning?
Yawning involves taking a deep breath, which is followed by exhaling with an open mouth once the lungs are full. The yawn lasts approximately six seconds, and during this period of time, a person’s heart rate can rise by 30%.
An average adult yawns approximately 20 times per day, and yawning can begin as early as 11 weeks from conception when a person is still in their mother’s womb.
For a long time, healthcare professionals didn’t know the reasons behind yawning. However, now it seems obvious that there are numerous reasons for yawning. One is that yawning can help regulate body temperature. This is very helpful for stimulating alertness and boosting the brain’s cognitive functions.
All of us probably yawn when we feel bored, and our brain is not stimulated. This can signal that the brain is shifting to a lower level of attentiveness. By yawning, your brain receives more oxygen and blood in order to raise alertness.
Up until now, we talked about normal yawning. However, yawning can also be abnormal or excessive. Excessive yawning happens more than once per minute, which can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, so you must understand the causes.
Causes of Excessive Yawning
Excessive, very frequent yawning can signify tiredness resulting from depression, insomnia, medication side effects, or particular medical conditions. Depending on the reason, excessive yawning can happen together with other symptoms, like difficulty concentrating, feeling extremely tired, or breathing difficulties.
Here are some possible causes for excessive yawning:
If you have sleep issues, you can find yourself yawning significantly more than usual. A common cause for excessive yawning is drowsiness, fatigue, or tiredness. If you experience constant sleepiness or fatigue during the daytime or suffer from some sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy, you better consult your doctor for medical advice.
Sometimes you may not be aware that you have sleep problems. For instance, if you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may not have symptoms that you can easily recognize, but it impacts your sleep quality and can leave you with the feeling of tiredness throughout the day.
Other symptoms indicating sleep problems that may cause excessive yawning are:
- concentrating difficulties;
- slower responses or reflexes;
- feeling irritable or unmotivated;
- aching or weak muscles.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are also common causes of excessive yawning. Anxiety especially affects your heart, energy levels, and respiratory system. All of this can cause excessive yawning, feelings of stress, and shortness of breath. When you experience more anxiety, you might find yourself yawning more often.
Excessive yawning related to anxiety usually gets worse if you feel more anxious. However, it can arise without an obvious trigger too.
Side Effects of Medications
You might experience excessive yawning if you use particular medications. Drowsiness, tiredness, or fatigue are common side effects of prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Some of the medications that have excessive yawning as a side effect are:
- antidepressants, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs);
- medications for allergies (antihistamines);
- certain pain relief medications.
Sometimes, excessive yawning can be associated with the vagus nerve, which runs from the lower part of the human brain down to the stomach and heart and regulates your heart rate. Excessive yawning might signal bleeding around your heart or, in severe cases, a heart attack.
Chest pain, vasovagal reactions, breathlessness, upper body pain, lightheadedness, and nausea are other indicators for heart problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately visit a healthcare professional.
People yawn excessively after they’ve experienced a stroke. This is due to the fact that yawning might be helpful in regulating and reducing the body’s core and brain temperature after a brain injury from the stroke. The yawning process involves the brain stem, which is the base area of the human brain which links to the spinal cord. People can yawn excessively before or after they have experienced a stroke.
Other symptoms of a stroke in your brain include:
- numbness, unable to smile on one side, or drooping face;
- weakness in one arm, or inability to keep your arm raised.
- speaking difficulties, or unclear speech.
Epilepsy is another condition that causes excessive yawning. Persons who suffer from epilepsy can experience excessive yawning after, before, or during an epileptic seizure, which starts in the temporal lobe of the human brain. This type of epilepsy is known as temporal lobe epilepsy. One of the symptoms of epilepsy is fatigue, tiredness, or drowsiness which can lead to excessive yawning, as well.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
As per a study published in the NIH, persons who suffer from multiple sclerosis can yawn excessively because multiple sclerosis can cause drowsiness, or to address the disturbed body temperature regulation, which is a result of multiple sclerosis. Excessive yawning can also be triggered by other disorders of the central nervous system.
Excessive yawning is related to increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in the human body. Abnormally increased levels of cortisol can be helpful in detecting some neurological conditions, like early-onset dementia or multiple sclerosis, as well.
Intense exhaustion and drowsiness, tingling and numbness in the face, body, legs, or arms, vision problems, balancing and walking difficulties, and dizziness are some of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Excessive yawning may be a symptom of a brain stem or frontal lobe tumor, but this is in very rare cases. Vision problems, headaches, personality shifts, stiffness, weakness, or tingling on one side of your body, and loss of memory are the main symptoms of a brain tumor.
Diagnosing Excessive Yawning
In order to determine the cause of excessive yawning, the healthcare professional might first ask about a person’s sleep habits. They’ll want to make sure that the person is getting enough sleep. This can be helpful to the healthcare professionals to see whether the excessive yawning is happening as a result of a sleep disorder or just from fatigue.
After the healthcare professional rules out sleep problems, they’ll do some diagnostic tests in order to find another possible cause for the person’s excessive yawning. One of these diagnostic tests is an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the brain’s electrical activity. This will help the healthcare professional to diagnose epilepsy or another medical condition that affects the brain.
Another diagnostic test is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. By using radiation and magnet waves, an MRI scan produces detailed images of the human body, which can be very helpful to the healthcare professional to visualize and assess bodily structures. An MRI scan is usually used to diagnose brain and spinal cord disorders, like multiple sclerosis and tumors. This scan is also useful for evaluating heart function and detecting heart failure.
The treatments for excessive yawning depend on its cause. So after the healthcare professional discovers the cause of your excessive yawning, they’ll give you the right treatment.
How to Stop Yawning?
Sometimes, excessive yawning can decrease in frequency when your stress level decreases or when the adrenal fatigue becomes better. However, if you still yawn excessively, here are some tips you can try to improve your condition:
- Get enough sleep. An adult should have from 7 to 9 hours of a good night’s sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider a hot bath before you go to bed, or you can try a 20-minute nap during the daytime. It might seem like a no-brainer, but lack of sleep can cause excessive yawning.
- Breathe. When you begin yawning, try an adrenal breathing exercise or another breathing exercise. Breathing will calm your body and will support healthy body temperature regulation. It allows more oxygen to enter your bloodstream, which in turn decreases the heart rate and dilates blood vessels, reducing your overall blood pressure.
- Hydration is important. You need to drink water during the daytime as much as possible. Hydration with cold water is the best because, at the same time, it’ll decrease your brain and body temperature.
- Stay cool. One of the most common causes of excessive yawning is an overheated brain. So, in order to avoid this problem, cool down your environment.
- Eat cold snacks. Cold, healthy snacks like yogurt or fruit reduce your internal body temperature, which can be very helpful for avoiding an overheating brain.
- Take a walk. A several-minute walk encourages a person to breathe deeply, helps with blood circulation, and stretches a person’s muscles. But, if you suffer from advanced adrenal tiredness then you might need to abstain from this in order to avoid adrenal crashes.
- Cinnamon. Cinnamon has plenty of health benefits, and a cup of hot cinnamon tea once per day might be helpful in dealing with fatigue and anxiety.
- Take a break. If your work is behind a computer all day long, you should incorporate regular breaks. Get a cup of coffee, cold soda, or just do something not computer-related for several minutes.
In most people, yawning is a quite normal reflex although it’s very poorly understood. Yawning is usually just a symptom of boredom, fatigue, tiredness, drowsiness, or a response to the people around you yawning a lot. However, if a person yawns more than once per minute, it would be best to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional in order to rule out any serious medical problems. Simple changes, such as getting a good night’s sleep and decreasing stress are best if you aren’t able to get rid of the yawn.