Isn’t it odd that simply reading the title of this article made some people yawn? Here, the crack research team at Sit ‘n Sleep attempts to corral some of the research out there to provide our readers with insights into the bizarre behavior known as yawning.
The Physicality of Yawning
Physiologically, when we yawn our bodies simultaneously deeply inhale air and the eardrums stretch, followed by the exhalation of a deep breath. Many times, the yawn will be accompanied by a broad stretching of the arms, neck and torso. One should be careful not to exhibit one of these overly-dramatic yawns in social situations where they can be construed as rude.
Why Do We Yawn?
The most commonly-held belief is that yawning is performed by the body to rapidly replenish dwindling oxygen levels in the brain. Yawning occurs most frequently when we are exhausted and our breathing is shallower. A large yawn will quickly replenish the oxygen supply throughout the body. Some also believe that people yawn in order to cool down their brains. Others postulate that yawning helps to alert people when they are tired and helps them to remain awake and stay focused on tasks such as driving.
Is Yawning Contagious?
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding yawns is whether they are contagious or not. Well, science has proven that yes, yawning is contagious and not only in humans. Contagious yawning is also prevalent amongst chimpanzees and other distinguished members of the animal kingdom. There are a few theories as to why yawning is contagious. From an evolutionary perspective many believe that yawning acts to awaken the body by elevating oxygen levels and the accompanying stretching keeps the body limber as well. This heightened alertness and loosening of muscle tension may have helped our hunter-and-gatherer ancestors better deal with fatigue and protect themselves against predators. Others believe that yawning communicates sleepiness amongst a human social group and allows them to coordinate their sleep cycles, improving group cohesion.
Now, we bet most of the people who have read this article began to yawn at some point. If so, that’s a good thing. Studies have shown that children with autism are less likely to catch a contagious yawn, because they are less adept at perceiving and mimicking social cues. Also, the authors of this study would like to remind you that any yawning that occurred while reading this article happened due to years of evolution and not because it triggered any feelings of boredom or sleepiness.