On my recent trip to Vermont my boss caught me yawning a few hundred times at our conference. He was like, ‘geesh, Mel, is your brain over-heating?’ I said, ‘what are you talking about, Richard, is my brain overheating?’ His theory on why you yawn is that it means your body needs to regulate the heat in your brain. I had never heard that…have you? So, I decided to research it. Here is what I now know.
Today we know that a yawn is a reflex of inhalation and exhalation that draws more oxygen into the bloodstream. A reflex is a built-in physical reaction that people often do not have control over. I have tried to stifle my yawns but it looks awkward and people know what you are doing.
A yawn is also often associated with a person being tired, but this is not always the cause for a yawn. People yawn for many reasons including stress, boredom, emotion and over-work.
Conference in Vermont = stress (check), boredom (check), emotion (check?) and over-worked (check). I will let Richard believe my brain was over-heating though in lieu of the aforementioned real reasons.
Haven’t we all wondered why yawning is contagious? I found out that there have been studies on if people really catch a yawn. Kewl study. You start catching yawns when you are approximately four years old. Please note I said, catch a yawn...not just yawn. There is a difference. Friends with children less than four…please just yawn at your kid as many times as you can and see if they yawn back. Apparently, they won’t. Let me know what you find out so we are able to confirm this.
Also, autistic children won’t catch a yawn until even later because of developmental processes. Btw, these are theories and I am only telling you what I have read so take this for what you want.
I also found interesting that in ancient times, they say that it is a form of bonding and a sign of empathy. What? A sign of empathy? I don’t understand that one. You tell me you are sick and I yawn? Weird. That is more like rude!
Some of the more scientific explanations of why we yawn are caused by physical needs. The deep breath helps replenish the levels of oxygen in our blood. Now I am wondering why the level of oxygen is low in my blood? (Make a note to self to do more research-I'll add an addendum).
Another common theory is that the yawn helps to regulate our body temperature. (I think this is what Richard meant…not that it regulated my brain temperature) Other hypotheses suggest that the same chemicals in our brain that affect our moods and emotions cause us to yawn. (hmmm…I think he just lumped these theories all together and made up his own)…I better just forward this paragraph to him to help clear this up.
I cover my mouth when I yawn…if I’m around others. This is a courtesy, right? Who wants to see the inside of my mouth? However, I found out that a common superstition says that a person must cover his or her mouth when yawning so that the soul does not escape through the mouth.
And, other superstitions say that yawning is a sign danger is near. I like this. I may have to tell my friends that from now on…if I yawn…it means there is danger near! It may make life, on an otherwise dull day, a little more exciting!