Print Edition - 2019-03-14  |  Health and Living

Why do we yawn?

  • Tricky triggers

Mar 14, 2019-

People yawn when they’re tired, but also when they wake from a night’s sleep. We yawn when we’re bored, but also when we’re anxious, or hungry, or about to start a new activity. Yawning is contagious—we often start yawning the minute someone near us starts.

“There are so many triggers. People who sky-dive say they tend to yawn before jumping. Police officers say they yawn before they enter a difficult situation,” said Adrian Guggisberg, a professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of Geneva.

Reading about yawning makes people yawn. You are probably yawning right now. But the physiological purpose of a yawn remains a mystery.

Yawning consists of a deep inhalation of air accompanied by a powerful stretching of the jaw, followed by a shorter expiration of air and rapid closing of the jaw.

One thing for sure: yawning is catching. One person’s yawn can trigger yawning among an entire group. People who are more empathic are believed to be more easily influenced to yawn by others’ yawns; brain imaging studies have shown that when humans watch other people yawn, brain areas known to be involved in social function are activated.

Published: 14-03-2019 11:00

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