Why do we yawn, and why is yawning contagious?

Nobody really knows why we yawn, even though medical literature is full of possible explanations. One that has gained popularity in recent years, is that yawning may help regulate brain temperature. The brain operates best within a narrow range of temperatures. To lower the brain’s temperature, researchers suspect, the body takes in cooler air from its surroundings by yawning. This argument seems to have been strengthened after researchers placed ice packs of the heads of test subject, and contagious yawning ceased almost completely. This theory of brain temperature seems to be contradicted by the fact a foetus yawns in the womb. Perhaps there is a separate developmental reason for that.

You don’t even have to see somebody yawn to catch a yawn

Just thinking about yawning can trigger the reflex. Some researchers suspect that catching a yawn is linked to our ability to empathise with other humans. For instance, contagious yawning activates the same parts of the brain that govern empathy and social know-how. And some studies have shown that humans with more fine-tuned social skills are more likely to catch a yawn. And it’s not just us. Many animals yawn as well as any of you with pets will know. Dogs can catch an inter-species yawn, and the closer they are attached to their human, the more common it is, which adds more weight to the empathy hypothesis. Wolves also yawn contagiously, possibly indicating a strong empathy within that specie.

yawning wolf
Yawning in wolves is contagious.

How many times have you yawned whilst reading this post? Go on, leave a comment, I won’t be offended.

I’ll leave you today with Carlos Santana playing Samba Pa Ti live in Mexico.

Thanks for stopping by, and join me again tomorrow for the final day of the April A to Z Challenge

Until then, happy yawning.

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Author: A.J.

I have written as far back as I can recall. Until 2011, that writing was just for me, or as rambling letters to friends and travelogues to the family. I never thought about why, or if others did similarly, and the thought of publishing never entered my head. Since I left England in 1979, I have been collecting experiences, people, and places. From the blood-soaked streets of Kampala, the polluted dust bowls of the Sahara, or the pristine ice floes of the Antarctic, I have gathered and filed them away. Some have recently squeezed through the bars of insecurity and are now at large in the pages of my first three novels. Others await their future fates.

1 thought on “Yawn

  1. Em Sendall says:

    Only twice, but I’ve only just woken up really so think it’s mainly due to that!


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