Yawning is normal.

From babies to grandparents – everybody yawns.

Even your pets and wild animals yawn.

So why do we yawn?

Well, the truth is we don’t know for sure, but we have a few ideas on why people yawn.

One theory is when we are tired (or bored), we don’t breathe as deeply (we may be taking shallow breaths), we’re breathing more slowly, so yawning helps bring extra oxygen into our body.

This would be a reflex motion. Something we can’t control.

It’s Just a Theory

Our body is very good at monitoring oxygen levels, so we think yawning is a mechanism that helps control oxygen intake.

However, there have been studies that show we still yawn even when we are breathing normally and have ample oxygen.

Another Theory …

Another theory, although we’re not certain, is yawning helps us stay awake by forcing us to stretch.

The actual act of yawning stretches the lungs and lung tissue, but we also tend to flex various muscles and joints as well, leading us to feel more awake.

… and Another Theory!

There’s a third theory that yawning is a protective reflex that helps keep our lungs lubricated.

When we yawn, we redistribute the substance called surfactant (say: sur-FAK-tint).

This keeps our lungs lubricated and also keeps them from collapsing.

Here’s What We Know For Sure

Whatever the reason, we do know one thing for sure; Yawning is contagious.

If you yawn in front of others, you’ll notice other people around you will start yawning, too.

Try it next time you’re with friends – take a big deep yawn then watch the action. Sometimes even thinking about a yawn can get you yawning.

Did you yawn yet?

To Health! 

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About Dr. Dina Kulik MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dr. Dina Kulik completed her Pediatrics Residency and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Dina is one of Canada’s leading child health media experts, providing child health information through television, radio, print media, and via her blog DrDina.ca. Above all, Dina’s greatest joy is her family, and being the mom of four crazy boys.

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