How to Stop Yawning
Author: Jonathan Warren
Shut your eyes and picture yourself all tucked up in your comfy bed, ready for some serious snoozing. Dreamy, right? Now, be honest – did just the thought of some well-earned sleep make your mouth open wide and your eardrums pop? Did you take in a sharp, deep inhalation of breath that filled up your lungs before slowly breathing out? Well, friends, what you've experienced there is some good old oscitation, or as it's more commonly known, a yawn.
Often synonymous with a pre-bedtime stretch, or quickly followed by another cup of coffee at the crack of dawn, a yawn is a strange reflex that humans of all ages experience multiple times a day. In fact, you might have even yawned when you were still in the womb!
Here, we delve deep into the dozy details about why we yawn, what yawning actually means and uncover whether yawning is actually contagious or just another old wives’ tale. But most importantly, if you feel like you spend the majority of your waking hours yawning right the way through til bedtime, we’ve got a whole host of top tips on how to stop yawning all the time!
Why do we yawn?
Truth be told, the jury’s out on the precise reason for this involuntary human reflex. But there tends to be general expert consensus on a few key factors as to why we might yawn from time to time.
The most obvious reason for a stretch and a yawn is a very simple one – you’re tired. A yawn is your body's way of trying to keep you awake and can often occur immediately after waking up or just before heading to bed. When we’re sleepy, our bodies tend to take in less oxygen as our breathing slows down. As a result, your brain jumps into action, forcing an involuntary yawn to flood your bloodstream with oxygen as you inhale and push out the pesky carbon dioxide (the reason you’re feeling so sluggish) as you exhale. Thank you, brain!
Another commonly cited cause is boredom. There's a reason why overly long work meetings are known as snooze-fests and if you struggle to engage with what’s going on around you, you might find yourself stifling a yawn and covering your mouth in front of a colleague.
From a more scientific viewpoint, it’s possible that a yawn is the body's attempt at cooling down the brain. If your brain is a little overheated, a sudden intake of breath works to increase your heart rate. Many researchers believe this is all in the name of regulating brain temperature, as a faster heart rate helps blood move through your body more quickly, and the action of stretching out your jaw improves blood flow in your face.
Is yawning contagious?
Yes! Videos of people yawning, the sound of someone yawning, or even this blog dedicated to yawning can be enough to trigger an oscitation outbreak. One of the most common theories behind ‘catching’ a yawn is that it’s a sign of empathy – seeing someone yawn will most likely make you follow suit, especially if you’re close with the yawn-starter in question.
But while this may be the cause – along with other theories that include time of day, age and intelligence – there's no conclusive findings as to why yawning is so contagious as yet.
Tips for how to stop yawning
As we’ve already said, yawning is an involuntary human reflex meaning it can't always be controlled and you’ll never find a way to beat it off for good. It’s natural to yawn multiple times in a single day, however, there are ways to reduce it if you feel like you yawn too much.
It’s important to note though, that if you find yourself yawning more than once a minute, this could be considered as ‘excessive yawning’. If you're suffering from excessive yawning, it's time to speak with your GP as it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition which needs a bit of TLC.
But, if this isn’t the case and you're just trying to stifle those pesky yawns in important meetings at work, follow our quick tips on how to reduce yawning below.
Play it cool
Keeping your environment cool could help combat those awkward yawns. As noted previously, a yawn is considered an attempt by the body to cool down the brain, so lowering the temperature of your environment, eating or drinking something cold, or using an ice pack if you’re particularly toasty could help you reign them in!
Focus on your breathing
Deeper breathing can help the brain get more oxygen, which might be why you're yawning in the first place. You could also try to breathe more consciously through your nose, thereby reducing the risk that a sharp intake of air might cause your open mouth to extend so far that it sets you off on another yawning spree.
Improve your quality of sleep
An obvious cause of increased yawning is that you haven't got enough quality shut-eye – and that's where we can really help. At Time4Sleep, we believe there's nothing better for the body and soul than a good night of restorative kip.
Clamping down on your late-night technology use, sticking with a regular alarm clock, and exercise are all great ways to make sure you're getting that restorative night's sleep you need but your yawning could also mean it's time for an upgrade in the sleep station department. From luxurious Sleigh Bed frames and sleek TV beds, to fresh Pocket Sprung Mattresses and ever so comfy Memory Foam Mattresses, we've got you covered if you feel your current setup isn't quite up to the task.
For more tips on how to up your slumbering skills to beat off the yawns, have a read of our helpful guide on How to Improve Sleep Quality.