Science Behind Yawning & Why it’s Contagious

The Science Behind Yawning and Why it's Contagious

The Science Behind Yawning and Why it’s Contagious


When you are with someone, and you suddenly see the person yawn, what is your automatic reaction? Do you try to stifle a yawn? A yawn is an act, usually involuntary, caused by excess inhalation and exhalation. Sometimes, yawning is connected to nervous tension, boredom, overwork, and exhaustion. Commonly, a yawn is correlated with fatigue, but scientific studies show that this phenomenon happens when there is a surplus of carbon dioxide or insufficient oxygen-levels in your bloodstream.

Ever wonder why you get an urge to yawn when someone within your proximity yawns? Well, the answer is that scientists do not know, however have come up with theories. The mystery of a yawn being contagious refers to the brain. It may not sound like the biggest mystery of life, yet scientists are left scratching their heads finding answers. This contagious power of yawning is mostly unconscious. We see someone yawning in our vicinity and yearns to replicate this action occurs without knowing it. Sometimes, we are aware of this action, but it sets off in us without conscious control. Before discussing the uncertain reasons for why yawning can be contagious, let us first mull over some factual bits as to why a yawn occurs.

According to expert studies, even a fetus as young as 3-months old also yawns. It supposedly helps in cooling the body and helps even out pressure in your ears. Just like when you are stretching, yawning will help you loosen muscles and joints of your body, increase blood sugar levels and heart rate. When dopamine, nitric oxide, glutamine, and serotonin, among other chemicals, are present in the brain, yawning episodes will be triggered. However, chemicals such as endorphins help out in diminishing yawning episodes.

Up to 60% of people are likely to yawn at the mere sight of yawning. Even while reading an article on yawning, you are likely to experience more frequent yawns than normal. This particular behavior is not entirely understood. However, one logical explanation suggests that it could be the result of an unconscious herding behavior.

So, the next time you see someone yawn, try to suppress the urge to yawn, and you’ll notice that you might not be successful.

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