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Why do I yawn? – ‘The Why’

Why do I yawn?

Welcome to the latest edition of The Why.

Everywhere you look the media is pushing you telling you who to follow, what to watch and when to watch it.   You’re even sometimes told how to do it all.  Truth is, here at American Live Wire we do a bit of that too.  The big difference is we also tell you why.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

“Why do I yawn?” you ask?

It’s 2014.  We still aren’t driving flying cars or using personal jet packs.  OK, our smartphones look like stuff out of Star Trek -(D@mn it, Jim, I’m a writer not a doctor!)–but the truth is to those of us who are a few decades old it’s unbelievable that we’re still so clueless about some things.  To wit, we still have no water-tight answer to the question: “Why do I yawn?”

We have contact lenses that give us infrared vision, smartwatches, computers that fit in your ears and morning after birth control pills for those of us who party just a bit too hard and fast.  We even have apps that wake you up to the sound and smell of bacon cooking but our very bodies sometimes remain a mystery.

“Why do I yawn?” you ask?

why do I yawn

Why do I yawn?

An online investigation offered up only theories.  A couple of the theories, in fact, are common knowledge.  Perhaps the most popular one is that you yawn because you are either tired or bored.  (Duh, right?  But there is some science involved here.)

The popular theory is that it’s an involuntary reflex that kicks in when you’re tired or bored you simply don’t breathe as deeply as you normally do.  Thus your body takes in less oxygen because your breathing has slowed and you aren’t breathing as deeply.  Yawning helps you take in more oxygen into your blood and also move more carbon dioxide out of your blood.

Rather than cure cancer, however, some scientists decided to prove that theory wrong.  Their studies revealed that taking in more oxygen doesn’t decrease yawning.  Expelling more carbon dioxide also has no effect on how much anyone yawns either.

So the question remains: “Why do I yawn?”

Some researchers believe that yawning is actually a “protective reflex”.  They theorize that you yawn to redistribute surfactant.  Surfactant is an almost oil-like substance that aids in keeping your lungs lubricated and prevents them from collapsing.  The bottom line here is if you never yawned, then in theory, it would become increasingly difficult to take a deep breath.

If you’re still asking “Why do I yawn?” here is yet another theory.  Some studies indicate that yawning helps to stretch your lungs and your lung tissue.  Yawning flexes your lungs may help increase your heart rate.  (Your lungs are going to the gym albeit without the benefit of seeing toned bodies in tank tops and shorts.)

Now you’re smiling but still asking: “Why do I yawn?” right?

OK.  Andrew C. Gallup, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University, had an interesting, more updated theory.  His experiments reveal that yawning might cool your brain.  He told WebMD: “We have collected data on rats, parakeets, and humans. All the data supports the brain-cooling hypothesis.” Gallup believes as you begin to yawn, your jaw stretches and increases the blood flow to your face, neck and head.

This deep breath pushes spinal fluid and blood down from the brain.  Cooler air I taken in through your mouth and it cools those bodily fluids.  Gallup explained: “Together these processes may act like a radiator, removing blood (that’s too hot) from the brain while introducing cooler blood from the lungs and extremities, thereby cooling (brain) surfaces.”

Yet another doctor, however, University of Geneva physician Adrian G. Guggisberg, disagrees.  While he admits that “changes in room temperature can trigger yawning”, he feels that “the fact that yawning is suppressed during high temperatures suggest that it fails precisely when we need it” and noted that the body has other methods of regulating body temperature.

One thing sources seem to agree upon is that yawning is contagious.  Why is yawning contagious?  That is a question for another time.  We here at American Live Wire just hope that you don’t yawn a lot when you read our articles!

“Why do I yawn?”  Now you know.

(Now you know at least as much as anyone else, at any rate.  What does your doctor think?)

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

American Live Wire . . . Listen and be heard.

 (Image courtesy of FreeStockPhotos)

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.