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Excessive Yawning? Here’s Why You Might Be Yawning Frequently

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Who doesn’t yawn? You might find yourself yawning on waking up, at work or before you go to bed. Very rightly, people associate yawning with exhaustion and boredom. Yawning is very beneficial for health – it cools the brain, improves blood circulation and relieves stress. But, if you find yourself yawning often, it might not be so innocuous. It could signify some underlying health complication.

Causes of regular yawning

Before we learn about excessive yawning, first we need to understand what yawning is. The purpose of yawning is not fully understood yet, but we do know several triggers that can make us yawn under normal conditions. Here are a few:

Constant Yawning

Altitude change – A change in altitude (such as flying in an aircraft, mountain climbing) can cause you to yawn automatically. Some people also intentionally yawn in these conditions as a means of equalising ear pressure.

Empathetic yawning – We also tend to yawn when we see other people yawning. This is especially true if you are close and have empathy for the person yawning. Funnily enough, even reading about yawning can cause people to yawn (did you just yawn while reading this?). 

Boredom – Feelings of boredom, tiredness and sleepiness are some of the most common triggers for yawning, it may be the conditions you are most familiar with.

Possible biological reasons – A few biological conditions have also been proposed (but not proven yet. Deep breathing with an open mouth is known to mildly cool the brain. Another idea is that yawning is usually accompanied by stretching. This stretching of muscles and joints, as well as the lungs, may improve heart rate which may result in making you feel more awake. 

Now let’s five deeper into excessive yawning and its possible causes. 

The most common medical problems that are associated with increased yawning are sleep deprivation, insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and many medicines that cause sleepiness.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

What exactly is excessive yawning?

Medically speaking, yawning more than once a minute is excessive yawning. It is a response to a vasovagal reaction, which some medical conditions trigger. The vagus nerve extends from the brain to the abdomen through the throat. Increased activity of this nerve causes frequent yawning.

And it is these medical conditions that your frequent yawning could be indicating –

1. Sleep Disorders –

If you are not getting enough sleep at night, it could be because you have contracted a sleep disorder. It could be insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, parasomnia, circadian rhythm disorders etc. All of these disorders disrupt sleep. Over time, not getting quality sleep will result in exhaustion and weariness, which will manifest as many yawns.

Read More: 9 Side Effects of Less Sleep

2. Anxiety –

Everybody is familiar with anxiety. Higher degrees of worrying can prompt yawning. It affects your respiratory system, your heart and blood pressure and all of this manifests as incessant yawning.

Yawning stretches the muscles and joints and increases the heart rate and thus may prepare the body for an increased level of alertness. It may also be related to excessive fatigue and increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in the body.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

3. Reaction to Medicines –

Sometimes medicines you take could make you yawn, especially if these medications cause exhaustion and drowsiness. Here are some drugs that could be the culprits-

4. Heart Problems –

Sometimes people yawn a lot in the days leading up to a heart attack. Yawning could also be warning you about bleeding around the heart. If you notice other signs like breathlessness, giddiness, nausea, consult a doctor right away.

5. Stroke –

A brain stroke may trigger excessive yawning in an attempt to drag down both the brain and the body’s temperature. It helps the brain to deal with the injury caused by the stroke.

6. Epilepsy –

Epilepsy or seizures begin in the brain. And just like after a stroke, the brain makes you yawn to mellow the harmful effects of seizures. Or you might be yawning because your energy levels have dipped after an attack.

Do not wave excessive yawning off as a minor annoyance. Consult a doctor who will change your medication or recommend diagnostic tests that will reveal if an illness is triggering your fits of yawning. Take action before it is too late.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.

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