How to stop yawning: 5 natural remedies
From boredom and fatigue to needing more oxygen, there are many theories (and myths) about why we yawn. What scientists do agree on is that yawning is the body’s response to its environment (like when you see someone else yawning).
While there are many reasons why you yawn, there aren’t always suggestions on how to stop yawning. So while you’ve probably yawned at least once today, learn how to cover up a yawn with some tried and tested tricks and tips.
Why do we yawn?
When you yawn, you draw air into your lungs, widening the sternum, stretching the abdominal muscles and pushing down your diaphragm. Lasting 6 seconds on average, a yawn can bring changes in respiration rate, eye closure, heart rate and lung capacity.
It’s an old wives’ tale that yawning means your brain needs more oxygen. This myth has been bandied about so often that many believe it is actually true. In reality, researchers are still figuring out why we yawn and how it serves us. What they have discovered is that breathing in more air doesn’t stop yawning.
It’s understood that yawning cools the brain down as you take oxygen in. When you inhale deeply, the incoming air slightly cools the brain. And stretching the jaw increases blood flow to the brain too – another cooling factor.
What about contagious yawning? Scientists aren’t sure about why we ‘catch each other’s yawns,’ but it is believed that the contagiousness of yawning lies in social cohesion. There are some theories which may explain contagious yawning, but these are not yet proven:
- Humans have reflex patterns which dictate that when we see someone doing something, we may want to repeat that same action. So with yawning, you’re likely to yawn because the region of the brain that empathizes with the other person gets triggered and reciprocates.
- Yawning has been thought of as a bonding mechanism to keep a community together.
- As a form of communication, yawning has been thought to be a signal to others that we’re sleepy and when they agree, they yawn right back.
- Young children and people with autism don’t respond to yawning.
Is yawning too much bad for you?
Excessive yawning can be a sign that there is an imbalance in the body or could indicate an underlying disease, sleep disorder, high blood pressure, thrombosis of the arteries or damage to the respiratory centre located in the brain.
Another reason for excessive yawning can point to anxiety or depression. Studies have found that the presence of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood can lead to yawning too much. You should consult a doctor if you are constantly yawning.
5 Ways to stop yawning
If you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep and still find yourself yawning, here’s what you can do if you’re battling with a case of the yawns.
1. Breathe through your nose
When you feel a yawn coming on, try an old trick. Slowly breathe through your nose. By inhaling this way, you can prevent the yawn.
2. Get quality sleep
Yawning can be a symptom of sleep deprivation or a lack of quality sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, your body tries to keep you alert by yawning. Practise good sleep hygiene and aim to sleep for at least 7-9 hours a night so you can wake up refreshed and mentally alert.
3. Keep your environment cool
Inhaling cold air works to cool down an overheating brain, so keeping your room cool can keep a yawn at bay because a cool environment lowers your body temperature and you’re less likely to want to yawn.
4. Stay hydrated
When you don’t drink enough water and your body becomes dehydrated, you can start to feel more tired than you actually are, leading to yawning. Drink a large glass of water to restore liquid balance in the body and to fight the desire to yawn. Water will also refresh you and make you more alert, so drink up!
5. Watch the meds
Some meds like anti-allergy tablets and painkillers can make you drowsy, leading to yawning. Consult your doctor to find out if you can take a lower dosage or find an alternative that won’t make you feel sleepy.
Fun facts about yawning
The biological details of yawning have fascinated scientists for years. We take a look at the most interesting below.
- Did you know? Fish, reptiles and birds all yawn.
- Greek philosopher Hippocrates believed that yawning prevents fever.
- The human fetus yawns at only 12 weeks old.
- The hypothalamus, pituitary gland and brainstem all work together to form a yawn but scientists don’t know how they do so.
- On average, humans yawn 8 times a day, 2,920 times per year and 240,000 times in a lifetime, with each yawn lasting 5-6 seconds.
Yawning is the body’s natural response to tiredness, boredom or can be a sign of an underlying condition. If you’re concerned about excessive yawning, then it’s best to consult your doctor to rule out any serious illnesses. If reading this article made you yawn, we hope our 5 tips to stop yawning will help keep future yawns at bay!