“I yawn so many times a day, and I’m worried about it.” “I may have some diseases or illness because I yawn so often.” Are these worries bothering you?
We yawn for various reasons, but yawning may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem.
Yawning is most often done when we are sleepy and it usually stops without doing anything special. But the type of yawning, which may be a sign of disease, might be repeated many times a day and almost every day.
Regarding those yawns that you can’t stop, let us divide them into two groups; the one with a sign of disease and the other without any sign of disease. Here are some salient features of each group.
1．Characteristic signs of yawing as a symptom of diseases
Try to check whether you are feeling sleepy when you are yawning. It is one of the keys to telling the two groups apart.
Not all of yawns given when you are not sleepy would present medical symptoms. But we need to pay heed to the kind of yawns given when you don’t feel sleepy or sleep deprived.
In the next section, we are outlining the symptoms of related diseases with and without yawning, so that you can check whether they are relevant or not.
2．Causes for Excessive Yawning ― Diseases
Diseases with yawning as a symptom are as follows:
This refers to yawning caused by less active brain functions, due to the decreased amount of blood glucose ― blood sugar, which is the energy source for the brain. You need to open your mouth wide and inhale deeply to take in oxygen from the air mainly for two reasons; first to promote the blood flow of the brain, and second to stimulate the cerebrum by moving your facial muscles.
Diabetes symptoms other than yawning; blurred vision, fatigue, cold sweat, palpitations, drowsiness, etc.
Excessive yawning may occur prior to migraine. Migraines are caused by the widening of blood vessels in the brain.
We yawn in response to a localized need of oxygen when blood vessels dilate.
Migraine symptoms other than yawning; pulsating headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc.
Anemia symptoms other than yawning; dizziness and lightheadedness upon standing up, tinnitus, fatigue, pale complexion, palpitations and short of breath, etc.
2-3. Cerebral infarction
Some yawns may result from blood stagnation in the brain.
One of the causes of cerebral infarction is a blockage in the brain blood vessels. When this occurs, the flow of blood gets blocked, resulting in the death of tissues in the brain due to decreased amount of oxygen.
2-4. Sleep disorders
Sleep disorders may cause yawns due to certain risk factors, with symptoms like trouble falling or staying asleep,.
Sleep deprivation combined with un-refreshing sleep will result in yawns. Consequently, your cerebral activity will decline during the daytime.
Symptoms of sleep disorders other than yawning; trouble sleeping, waking too early in the morning without being able to go back to sleep, being sleepy during the daytime, stopping breathing during sleep, etc.
3. Causes for Excessive Yawning ― without any necessity to worry about
We do not need to worry about the following causes of excessive yawing.
3-1．Sleepiness and boredom
When we feel sleepy and bored, the brain activity is decreased and we yawn to activate the brain.
To increase the brain activity, try inhaling deeply the fresh air and give adequate tactile stimulation to the facial muscles. Then, we can stop yawning excessively.
When we are tense, our nervous system kicks in to ease the tension.
The sympathetic nervous system is a division of the automatic nervous system. When the body is stressed, this sympathetic nervous system is called into action to face with a tense, active or stressful situation and prevails over the parasympathetic nervous system. Meanwhile, the parasympathetic nervous system is the other division of the automatic nervous system, which is called into action when you are at rest or relaxed. Then, in order to be released from the stressful situation, your body tries to automatically switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. This causes us to yawn.
When the body is stressed, muscles around the shoulders and chest also tense up, which results in shallow breathing. Because you are not getting enough oxygen, you yawn to try to get more oxygen and to improve the circulation of blood.
3-3. Brain fatigue
When your brain is tired, you yawn to revitalize the tired brain.
Prolonged hours of brain concentration or stressful situation will cause elevated blood ammonia level.
Because of the toxic effects of ammonia, the brain will suppress the function of the brain so that blood ammonia concentration level can decrease.
When you feel tired after long hours of brain work, it would be a good idea to take a nap or take a break for ten minutes or so to refresh yourself.
3-4. Regulating brain temperatures
When you use the brain, its temperature goes up. Your body may react by breathing in cooler outside air to bring the brain temperature down.
Some experiments have shown that yawns to regulate brain temperature occur more often in colder winter than in summer.
The parts of the brain that deal with empathy may cause contagious yawning, including someone else’s images of yawning.
This is why you sometimes start yawning and continue to yawn yourself without stopping, when you see someone yawn or imagine someone yawning,
4. Talk to a doctor
If you have mental or physical health problems other than yawning, or if you feel that you yawn excessively, you should see a specialist doctor.
Yawning can give others an insincere impression and may result in losing social credibility.
Do not ignore excessive yawning, thinking it is only yawning.
5. How to stop yawning
We need to cure the relevant disease causing excessive yawning, and find a solution to the root of the yawning problem.
On the other hand, it is not to be recommended to stop yawning forcefully because it serves to normalize body functions.
Just in case you are in a situation when yawning is inappropriate and you desperately need to stop a yawn, let us introduce two ways to suppress a yawn without interfering its essential purpose.
Breathe through your nose
When you feel a yawn coming on, take a deep breath through your nose and hold it there for a while. Keep repeating it.
The purpose of yawning is mostly to breathe in.
If you breathe in through your mouth, it causes a yawn. So breathe in through your nose to, at least, achieve its purpose.
Acupressure Point 1: Hyakue
You will find this acupressure point right on the top of the head, on the extended line connecting your ears. Applying pressure on Hyakue improves your whole body’s blood circulation, which in turn improves blood circulation to the brain.
Acupressure Point 2: Huuchi
They are the points about two thumb widths on either side of the spine, where the base of the skull meets the neck and the hair grows at the nape of the neck.
Applying pressure on these points can improve your body’s blood circulation, which in turn will improve blood circulation to the brain.
If you are experiencing excessive yawning that doesn’t go away, it could be a symptom of a serious disease or condition.
Although you might think “Why should I see a doctor for yawning?”, it is a good idea to seek prompt medical care because you might be suffering from a latent serious illness. If you are in doubt, rather than leaving it as it is without doing anything, make sure you talk to a doctor.
This article is updated as of May 12th, 2016.
No two individuals are alike. Please note that your results and experiences may vary.