Yawning is a common occurrence that we associate with boredom or tiredness. This is indeed a common symptom of lack of sleep, but this is only part of the truth. It turns out that this is one of the human defense mechanisms - it is associated with the correct functioning of the brain, the correct saturation of the body with oxygen and even with the correct concentration of certain hormones. Frequent yawning or not yawning can also be a sign of a serious neurological disorder. As if that weren't enough, scientists have proven that yawning is ... contagious. Learn about the most common causes of this phenomenon and check how it affects our body.
Why are we yawning?
Ancient philosophers and doctors were already interested in yawning. Despite the fact that it has been the subject of many studies over the centuries, many questions related to this phenomenon have not yet been discovered. It turns out, however, that yawning is associated with boredom - the biggest myth. Scientists emphasize that through this process, the body protects itself from too low pressure or hypoxia. By yawning, we take in deeper breaths and inhale more oxygen, improving circulation and increasing heart rate. Our blood pressure also rises slightly.
Interestingly, we also yawn during times of extreme stress - this is also related to oxygen. It turns out that we are also less saturated with oxygen - our breathing becomes shallower. Therefore, sudden yawning is a defense mechanism against too high a carbon dioxide concentration and a lack of oxygen in the body.
Yawning and hormones
According to scientists, yawning also depends on the concentration of certain hormones and neurohormones, mainly dopamine and oxytocin, which are produced in the hypothalamus. These are important neurotransmitters that are responsible for our well-being, mood, and even energy for life. They also regulate several physiological needs, including those related to sleep or the desire for sex. However, most of all they are responsible for the normal functioning of the entire nervous system. When their balance is disturbed, we begin to yawn. Therefore, this phenomenon often occurs in the morning - at night, the concentration of adrenocorticotropic hormone increases, and yawning - to reduce it. Before bed, we yawn to stretch and oxygenate our lungs, and then prepare the body for several hours of shallower breathing.
Yawning and serious illness
It turns out that yawning is so closely related to neurotransmitters and brain function that it can also be a signal for our health. The complete disappearance of this phenomenon is observed, for example, in people suffering from Parkinson's disease or people after major operations or car accidents. For doctors, the first yawn is a sign of recovery. However, you should be aware that too frequent yawning can be a symptom of a serious medical condition - epilepsy or multiple sclerosis, as well as obstructive sleep apnea.
Why is yawning contagious?
Yawning is one of the most contagious things: it only takes one person and then almost everyone in the same room yawns. According to researchers, the main reasons for "provocation" are tear-stained eyes and a wrinkled nose. People who are sympathetic to more mirror neurons are especially prone to yawning.
Can I protect myself from yawning?
There is no way to prevent this shortly before yawning. It all depends on the concentration of neurotransmitters, body oxygenation or pressure. However, we have an influence on these factors - we can regulate them through a healthy lifestyle. It is very important to get a good night's sleep (and more often to go to bed regularly), eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and engage in physical activity daily. Exercising in the morning or jogging will effectively keep us from yawning for the rest of the day.
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