Have you ever thought about why we yawn? What does yawning mean to you?
Most people believe it’s a sign your body is tired, or you haven’t slept well. Everyone yawns, including, adults, babies, and animals. The average person yawns up to 28 times per day, usually after waking up and before going to bed. Recent research suggests theories that yawning may serve a physiological purpose.
Cool Your Brain
It is thought that yawning can aid thermoregulation in the brain. When you yawn, the facial muscles move and contract, increasing blood flow to the face where heat can dissipate more easily. Working in tandem, a deep breath of fresh air helps send cooler blood to the brain.
The most common theory is that yawning helps to keep the brain awake during passive activities, such as driving or watching TV. Researchers believe the act of yawning forces the muscles in the face and neck to move. This movement may stimulate the carotid artery, leading to an increase in heart rate and the release of wake-promoting hormones.
A Sign of Empathy
Yawns are contagious, most people would agree. Thinking or reading about yawning can prompt a yawn. When you see or hear another person yawning, you’re most likely to yawn yourself. The contagiousness of yawning suggests it may be an empathetic response that helps humans and other mammals communicate. Brain imaging reveals that the parts of the brain associated with empathy and social behaviour show a spike in activity when a person watches someone yawn.
It is also suggested that the closer someone feels to another person, the more likely they are to yawn when that person yawns. In other words, a person is more likely to yawn after seeing a friend or family member yawn than an acquaintance or stranger.
Although there is no scientific consensus about the function of yawning, these theories are each connected to how your body works tirelessly to look after you. Whether it’s helping your brain cool down, stimulating you to breathe deeper or showing empathy to others. In turn, your body deserves rest and recovery.
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