Why Do We Yawn?

Last Updated: JAN 08, 2023

Ever noticed yourself yawning when you’re tired, bored, or stressed out? Or maybe you catch yourself yawning after seeing someone else do it? It turns out we Australians aren’t alone in this phenomenon. In fact, research shows that yawning is an act of contagious behavior that is seen in humans and other vertebrates alike. But why do we yawn? Let’s take a look at what medical professionals are saying about the matter.

why do we yawn

The Reasons We Yawn

The act of yawning has been studied for centuries, yet scientists still aren't sure why exactly we do it. The most widely accepted theory is that it acts as a cooling mechanism to regulate brain temperature — essentially functioning like our own built-in air conditioner. When we are exposed to high temperatures or increased levels of stress, our body sends signals to our brain via the hypothalamus which triggers us to yawn. This causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate and cool down which helps us stay alert and focused.

Another theory suggests that yawning can help us maintain adequate levels of oxygen in our blood stream by increasing the intake of oxygen through deep breaths. This could explain why many people find themselves yawning when they're feeling particularly fatigued or have been exposed to low levels of oxygen such as those found at higher altitudes (think mountain climbers).

Finally, some researchers believe that there is an emotional aspect to yawning — namely that it's a way for us to connect with others on an emotional level by mimicking their behavior (this is why it's so contagious!).

Contagious Yawns

As mentioned above, yawning can also be contagious — meaning if one person starts to yawn then others around them may start too! Research has shown that this phenomenon is not just limited to humans; animals such as dogs and chimpanzees are also susceptible to contagious yawns, suggesting that it's an evolutionary trait shared by many species. Additionally, studies have shown that people who are more empathetic tend to be more likely to experience contagious yawns than those who are less empathetic — further supporting the notion that there may be an emotional component involved in this behavior.

It looks like there’s still much debate surrounding the real reason behind yawning – but whatever the cause may be, one thing remains true; Australians certainly aren’t exempt from catching each other's snoozes! So next time you find yourself feeling tired or overwhelmed with stress, don't forget about your built-in air conditioning system – let out a big ol' Australian ‘yawn’! Who knows, you might even pass on the good vibes and get your mates doing it too!