Yawning is probably more contagious than the common cold. After observing someone yawn, we ourselves often yawn, even without being tired. Yawning, which is a natural reaction to drowsiness or fatigue, is absolutely normal. Many people say they experience momentary relaxation after yawning. However, if it happens frequently and without any signs of exhaustion, this may be a sign of an underlying condition. Below we explore different medical causes of frequent yawning and their potential treatment.
The Science Behind Yawning
Yawning, like many reflex actions, typically begins with an inhale of air followed by a rapid and deep exhalation. Scientists still don’t know why people yawn but there are a lot of theories. One idea is that yawning might be caused by drowsiness, fatigue or repetitive actions like watching television. But there are some scientific studies that suggest yawning can help lower the temperature in the brain.
Is Frequent Yawning A Health Problem?
Certain medical conditions can lead to a naturally occurring reflex called the vasovagal response, which is connected to excessive yawning. A vasovagal reaction activates the vagus nerve – resulting in a reduced heartrate and decreased circulation. The vagus nerve is the most important nerve in the human body. It provides information from the brain and spinal cord to major organs like your heart, stomach and intestines. Increased activity in the vagus nerve can significantly slow down the pulse rate and drop blood pressure.
If your yawning episodes are frequent and accompanied by difficulties in concentrating, or difficulty breathing, then you may have a condition that is not as trivial and benign as one might first assume.
Possible Medical Reasons of Frequent Yawning
Frequent yawning may be a sign of:
Sleep deprivation: Sleep deprivation is the condition of not getting enough sleep.
Insomnia: Insomnia is a condition in which it is hard to fall asleep and/or stay sleep.
Sleep apnoea: Sleep apnoea is a condition that interrupts your ability to breathe in sleep.
Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is a condition that causes excessive sleepiness during the day.
Apart from this, certain medicines that are used to treat depression can also make you tired and prone to yawning. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Rarely, frequent yawning may also be a sign of a severe medical condition such as:
Bleeding around the heart
Thermoregulatory disorders (inability to maintain body temperature)
Does Frequent Yawning Need A Treatment?
It may seem normal to most of us but if you find yourself yawning multiple times in short periods of time this might be indicative of a more serious condition. To diagnose the cause of your frequent yawning, your physician will ask you about your sleeping habits followed by a series of diagnostic tests such as EEG and MRIs. With EEG, the physician can monitor brainwaves to check for signs of epilepsy and other neurological conditions. Whereas, MRI imaging can help identify almost any problem in the brain, spine, heart and cardiac areas.
Treatment for frequent yawning usually depends on the cause. Here are the most common:
If your medications are the cause of your yawning, the doctor will either lower the dose or prescribe an alternative medication.
If you’re yawning excessively, your doctor may prescribe a sleep aid medication or technique.
Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue. This can result in you being more likely to yawn a lot. Although yawning is not always a sign of something serious, if you are feeling tired or sleepy, or if you’re yawning more than usual, it’s best to see your GP.