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Why do People Yawn & Why is it Contagious?

April 17th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

You’re sitting in the middle of class, listening to a boring discussion, and you just can’t help but yawn.  A classmate who was looking at you saw you yawn, and unconsciously yawned too.  Why do people yawn?  And why do people yawn after seeing someone else yawn?

Yawning is an interesting behavior that is being done not only by humans, but also by animals.  Most individuals assume that yawning is brought about by boredom or exhaustion.  Others don’t know why they yawn, except that they see someone else yawn first, and yawn too.

Although scientists still cannot pinpoint the exact biological mechanisms of a yawn, they agree that it is an involuntary reflex that controls the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

What is a yawn?

Technically speaking, a yawn is a reflex wherein the individual opens his mouth and inhales deeply, followed by a slow exhalation.  This is one among the many involuntary reflexes managed by the nerve and spinal centers.

Why yawn?

Many scientists believe that the beginning of a yawn is due to fatigue or boredom.  During these moments, breathing is thin and shallow, and less oxygen is brought to the lungs.  When you yawn, more oxygen gets into your lungs and into your brain, making you feel more alert and energetic.

Effects of Yawning

When you yawn, the sudden rush of oxygen into your system increases your heart rate and eliminates the carbon dioxide buildup in the lungs and blood stream.  Oxygen is also brought to the brain.  Yawning ventilates the lungs and restores normal breathing.

Why is yawning contagious?

Scientists don’t really know why one person yawns when he sees another one yawn.  And, this seemingly “contagious” behavior not only affects humans, but can be observed in animals as well.  Others believe that it is because of the power of suggestion, but there’s really no exact explanation to this.

Also, another thing worth pondering on is that fetuses in the womb also yawn.  Because they do not take in oxygen to their lungs until after birth, their act of yawning remains a mystery.  Another thing that questions the theory of yawning is that even individuals who already have a high level of oxygen in their blood stream still yawn.   If this is the case, what purpose does yawning serve?

There’s really no certain and direct answer to the reason behind yawning and why it is contagious.  However, it is definitely something interesting to think about.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll be the one to discover the answer to this great mystery!

  1. tasha
    November 20th, 2010 at 15:15 | #1

    i like to yawn but dont really care i yawn about stupid stuff like seeing a buck toothed beaver ahahahah lmao

  2. November 24th, 2010 at 03:29 | #2

    My theory is that yawning slows down the breathing rate and heart rate, preparing you for sleep.

  3. Leonard
    January 9th, 2011 at 12:32 | #3

    tasha :i like to yawn but dont really care i yawn about stupid stuff like seeing a buck toothed beaver ahahahah lmao

    Such an intelligent response from an obvious genius. Keep doing your people and the rest of the world proud, Tasha.

  4. March 24th, 2011 at 21:38 | #4

    eh reading this cause me to yawn more than five time really.

  5. noneya buissneszss e
    April 2nd, 2011 at 17:06 | #5

    its because when one person yawns the body thinks that person is taking up the air so you yawn its a natural reflex ahhahahahahahahahahahahahahah j

  6. noneya buissneszss e
    April 2nd, 2011 at 17:08 | #6

    ahahahahahaha yawn i yawned 218 times reading this 20 times weird weird weird weird wied word woird wodwo dmwd w dim dimd idmd di[rk92[w gioing crazy eltdown [jjiojo9j9obeep boo bop beep vooboo pob bo[b l;f

  7. noneya buissneszss e
    April 2nd, 2011 at 17:09 | #7


  8. April 4th, 2011 at 16:06 | #8

    In the paragraph What Is A Yawn, you say; “-the individual opens his mouth-“! You refer to us as a he. You ( the writer of this column) says “his”! This is very sexist…. I think many people would respect it if you changed this word in to; her/his or reverse! Thank you :)

  9. Andrew D. Heath
    April 7th, 2011 at 01:26 | #9

    I have finially found the cure to not yawning!! I have sewed my lips shut. but I have encountered a couple of side effects 1st I have lost 40 pounds because of the lack of food intake
    2ed I have had to learn sign language because I cannot talk does anyone have any suggestions on my predicament?

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