NOTE: Count how many times you yawn reading this.

Driving back from work, a few blocks from home, I yawned and told my coworker: “I’m so tired.” This led to a question – why do we yawn? Well, apparently, nobody knows.

While more research can be done on the action, it’s not widely discussed because it does not seem to cause serious problems.

Certain facts, however, have been discovered – we all yawn and so do most other animal classes. The process is involuntary so we cannot consciously control it. On average, we yawn for six seconds and start yawning at about 11 weeks after conception (that’s before you’re born).

Two main theories exists, not mutually exclusive, as to why we yawn – physiological and social.

To start, yawning can be seen as a body stretch. Another theory, notes that yawning could be connected to our circadian rhythms, as part of moving from an awake to asleep state and vice versa. A 2008 Gallup study, tested the “brain-cooling hypothesis” of yawning. Basically, the results show that we may yawn when our brain becomes warmer to cool it down. Also, outside temperatures seem to affect our yawning frequency.

We all know that when we’re bored, we yawn. Observations have suggested that could be due to the slower breathing, hence the decreased amount of oxygen, however, studies never confirmed this idea. Going back to the radiator hypothesis, yawning when bored could be the body’s way of splashing some “cold water” on the brain to wake it up.

Also, yawning is proven contagious for typical, well-adjusted people. The function could be connected to the primitive emphatic mechanisms and self awareness – once realize our surroundings, we mimic the faced around us.

So, what’s your yawn number?

P.S. Not sure what your number means since we still don’t know why we yawn but it should help you see a correlation between just reading on the subject and the actual action.


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