Yawning is a recurring phenomenon which is present both in the human and animal race. Everybody yawns, including the elderly and the newborn babies. It is an involuntary action which manifests through rapid and excessive inhalation of air, accompanied by the stretching of the ear drum. Once the inhalation is complete, everything gets back to normal and we continue functioning regularly. People perceive other aspects of yawning, considering is an important not-verbal message too.
Why Do We Yawn?
Believe it or not, we even yawn before we are born, as soon as we are 11 weeks old. Numerous theories about this phenomenon exist and some of these will be presented below.
From a physiological point of view, yawning helps our body compensate for the oxygen loss, by expelling the extra carbon dioxide during the process. On the other hand, certain studies claim that yawning is the way our brain cools itself once overheated. This theory bases its standpoint on the fact that our brain functions best when in a cool environment and, therefore, it claims that, during the ages of human evolution, our bodies have learned how to enable this organ the necessary working conditions.
Speaking of evolution, those who believe in it say that the specific motion of yawning makes our teeth visible, showing others how dangerous and threatening we are. Alternatively, yawning was once a trigger for changing the existing activities in primitive human communities, staying alert, according to this theory.
Finally, dictionaries and encyclopedias have a different point of view, presenting yawning as a result of tiredness, boredom or drowsiness.
Surely, these theories make sense. Yet, none of these offer a unified, complete explanation of the yawning phenomenon.
Other Facts about Yawning
One of the most interesting and mysterious aspects of yawning is its contagious nature. Namely, in more than 55% of cases, people yawn once they see someone else yawning. Scientific researches were carried out, showing that people yawn after witnessing a yawn in order to show empathy, the whole process being some kind of an ancient, evolutionary leftover. Autistic children have difficulties showing empathy and they rarely yawn after seeing a yawn. Also, animals almost never yawn when they see other members of their species yawn. Only humans and chimpanzees share this interesting side of yawning.
When we are tired or stressed we tend to be prone to yawning often. This action truly cools down the brain and this is one of the main purposes of it. In fact, yawning often is a clear sign of certain brain problems, sometimes even being a sign of an incoming seizure.