top of page

The Science Behind: Yawning

We've all had that one class where every day is a battle to stay awake. And when that one kid shamelessly yawns, everybody starts yawning. It's like a chain reaction that indicates that the class is bored, but why? Why do we yawn? And why is it contagious?

For several decades, scientists paid almost no attention to the phenomenon of yawning because they thought it wasn't related to anything. However, as scientists are discovering that most things happen for a reason, this phenomenon is now well-researched.

Let's start with the basics...

Yawning consists of a wide opening of the mouth and widening of the jaw, along with a long deep inhalation through the mouth and nose, associated with a feeling of comfort.

In simple words, your mouth and jaw stretch open, you inhale air, and you feel all cozy inside.


As most people believe, boredom or drowsiness is the most common trigger of a yawn. Boredom typically occurs when your environment is no longer able to sustain your attention. Meaning, you get bored when the things around are uninteresting. Obviously, right?

Your brain also gets bored when it doesn't have much to do. Your brain is like an excited toddler and yawning is its way of complaining when they can't find anything to do. That is why you'll see the most yawns during lectures, studying, driving, and/or watching television.

Several studies proved that right before a yawn, the temperature of our brain rises a little, and yawning brings it back down.

People with clinical disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, migraine, stress, anxiety, head trauma, and stroke experience excessive yawning because these conditions lead to an increased body core temperature, which the body tries to fix by yawning.

Why is it contagious?

Yawning is triggered often when one person sees another person yawn, which is a common form of echophenomena. Echophemonena is exactly what it sounds like. A phenomenon that is echoed.

Echopenomena is present in humans and also largely in chimps and dogs.

According to some scientists, even reading the word 'yawn' can make you yawn.

Comment the number of times you yawned during this article below!

However, it has been found that not everyone is affected by contagious yawning.

In the past, researchers thought that people who were more empathetic yawned more, however that theory has been disproven.

According to the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation, age was able to explain 8 percent of the variability in contagious yawning. They found that contagious yawning decreases as people grow older. They also found that children don't start contagiously yawning until they are four years old.

In the Duke study, children with autism were less likely to be affected by contagious yawning.

In conclusion, it is unknown why yawning is contagious. Studying it further requires a level of biology that we have not yet understood.

What have YOU discovered about your yawning habits? Personally, just writing this article made me yawn a zillion times.

Until next time...

Stay Curious ;)




Cover page:

bottom of page