Yawning is an involuntary reflex. It’s so normal that you might not notice that you’re doing it!
But if you can’t stop yawning, don’t ignore it. Frequent yawning should raise a red flag. It might point to factors that have serious consequences on your health – so it’s crucial to know the details. Here are 9 possible reasons you are yawning excessively.
1. Lack Of Sleep
Excessive yawning is a tell-tale sign of exhaustion. However, it means more than chugging a cup of coffee. You might not be getting enough rest to support your overall health and wellness.
In the United States, roughly 7 to 19 percent of adults are sleep deprived. This can mess with your physical health, such as your immune system or appetite. Even your fertility may take a hit. Sleep deficiency is also linked to a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, and depression.1
For optimal health, adults should sleep 7 to 8 hours each night.2
2. Poor Sleep Quality
If you’re yawning after 8 hours of sleep, there might be something wrong with your sleep quality. It matters just as much as the duration.3
Healthy sleep is free of disturbances. You should also go through all 5 phases: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages 1, 2, 3, and 4 and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are especially important for getting your deepest rest. Once you complete all 5, you re-enter stages 1 and 2.4
Good sleep quality means that you went through all 5 cycles. If this doesn’t happen, you’ll be yawning the day away.
3. Poor Daytime Functioning
Constant yawning is a sign of drowsiness, meaning that you won’t be able to function well during the day. You’ll be less productive since it’ll take longer to complete tasks.
It can also be dangerous. Each year, there are about 100,000 car accidents (and 1,500 deaths) caused by drowsy driving.
Depending on your line of work, drowsiness can put other people in danger. Examples include nursing, mechanics, and pilots.5
When you’re bored, it means that the environment can’t hold your attention. This jumpstarts your body’s sleep system which causes yawning.
Usually, boredom isn’t a big deal. But if you’re at work or school, this lack of motivation will reflect in your performance.
Make an effort to stay engaged. Ask questions or take notes. If you’re feeling bored at home, get up and do a chore. This will stop you from nodding off, which will only mess with your sleep schedule.6
Can’t stop yawning? You might be more stressed than you think. Stress makes your body temperature increase. It’s an inflammatory state, after all. Your body reacts by trying to “cool” it down through yawning. This seemingly normal action is designed to reduce the temperature of your brain, which is under a lot of stress.7
Start by recognizing what’s stressing you out. Next, practice stress management, one of the best things you can do for yourself. Exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones are all great remedies.8
6. Heart Problem
A yawn is basically one long, deep breath. So it’s no surprise that abnormal yawning is linked to heart problems. It may be caused by a heart attack, and most commonly, a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (“mini-stroke”).
Specifically, the yawn stems from hypertension that occurs within the brain.9
Fatigue and exhaustion is a major symptom of hypothyroidism. This means that your thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormones, which is responsible for many of your body’s processes. As a result, you’ll feel extremely lethargic. Constant yawning may crop up along with constipation, depression, and confusion.10
8. Parkinson’s Disease
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls how much you yawn. It’s also involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease, an age-related brain disorder that develops when your brain can’t make enough dopamine.11
In turn, this alters the way dopamine interacts with other neurotransmitters. Yawning may become more excessive or totally disappear. In some cases, yawning is paired with shaking and trembling.12
Do you suffer from migraines? Pay attention to how much you yawn. Dopamine plays a role in both, making excessive yawning a warning sign of migraine attacks.13
While you can’t stop a migraine, you can certainly prepare to deal with it.
If you’re suffering from excessive yawning, look at your lifestyle habits. Otherwise, it may also be caused by fatigue from underlying chronic problems. Consult your doctor if you have additional symptoms unrelated to sleep.
|↑1, ↑5||Why Is Sleep Important? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑2||How Much Sleep Is Enough? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑3||Healthy Sleep. MedlinePlus.|
|↑4||What Happens During Sleep? National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.|
|↑6, ↑7||Gupta, Sharat, and Shallu Mittal. “Yawning and its physiological significance.” International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research 3, no. 1 (2013): 11.|
|↑8||Learn to manage stress. MedlinePlus.|
|↑9||Cattaneo, Luigi, Laura Cucurachi, Elisabetta Chierici, and Giovanni Pavesi. “Pathological yawning as a presenting symptom of brain stem ischaemia in two patients.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 77, no. 1 (2006): 98-100.|
|↑10||Hypothyroidism. PubMed Health.|
|↑11||What Causes Parkinson’s Disease? NIH Senior Health.|
|↑12||Walusinski, Olivier. “Yawning in diseases.” European neurology 62, no. 3 (2009): 180-187.|
|↑13||Walusinski, Olivier. “Yawning in diseases.” European neurology 62, no. 3 (2009): 180-187.|