Yawning… we all do it, and we understand it has something to do with how tired we feel. However, unlike sleep apnea or laptops in the bedroom, yawning and sleep have a relationship that researchers haven’t fully come to a conclusion about quite yet.
Below are some of the things that are known about yawning.
Many Theories, Little Proof
There isn’t much scientific support for many of the theories regarding reasons we yawn. While we don’t yawn only when we’re tired, the act of doing so probably doesn’t point to a lack of oxygen, either.
But that’s not farfetched to consider; the bottom lobes of our lungs aren’t usually needed unless we exercise, with our deep breathing helping to maintain our lungs’ health and full effectiveness, says Michael Decker, Ph.D., associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
“Yawning would be like a homeostatic response to not breathing deeply” if this theory were true, Decker says– but there’s not enough proof to indicate that as being the main reason we yawn.
Yawning does seem to increase with boredom, though, as one small 1986 study composed of college students showed. According to the study, participants yawned more when they were shown a pattern of colors than when they saw a 30-minute rock video.
Recent research indicates that yawning occurs to cool down our brain. The open-mouthed action of a yawn causes our sinus walls “to expand and contract like a bellows, pumping air to the brain, which lowers its temperature,” National Geographic stipulates. This study realized that people were more often seen to yawn during the winter— when the exterior air is cooler, Healthy Living indicated.
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