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Excessive Yawning

Dr. Sumaiya Khan Apr 17, 2019
Yawning is an embarrassing symptom that can prove to be very distracting. Read on to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment of excessive yawning in children and adults.
"A yawn may not be polite, but at least it's an honest opinion." ― Anonymous
Yawning has never topped the list of etiquette, so you can imagine how well received excessive yawning is. Yet, it is inherently seen in all living creatures, and for that matter, even in fetuses.
Although there is no exact definition of yawning, it may be defined as a reflexive wide opening of the jaw with deep inhalation, which is more often than not triggered by decreased oxygen levels in the blood, mostly associated with sleepiness or boredom.
Excessive yawning is mostly defined as more than four yawns per minute. Hence, it is definitely something that tops the list of distractions for a person. So, what causes yawning and why is it contagious? Is it sheer boredom or is there something more to it? Let's find out.

Causes

  • One of the most commonly stipulated causes of yawning is boredom. It is a reflex reaction to boredom as it helps in restoring arousal levels.
  • For those still wondering the causes of a yawn, some researchers believe that it is a protective reflex mechanism adopted by the body to maintain proper lung inflation, which prevents collapsing of the alveoli.
  • Excessive yawning is recently said to have been associated with a number of diseases. These conditions include epilepsy, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, etc. It is said that these medical conditions incite yawning as a vasovagal response.
  • In a vasovagal response, the activity of the vagus nerve, which is one of cranial nerves, brings about a drop in the blood pressure and the heart rate, which results in a person yawning excessively to make up for the decreased supply of oxygen in the blood due to decreased blood circulation.
  • Other disorders that cause this problem are apraxia, cardiac tamponade, heart conditions, opioid withdrawal, sleep apnea, etc.
  • Abnormal posture is also a cause. If a person is in a slouched position for too long, it leads to pressure on the lungs, which is specifically seen more often after a meal. To make up for this pressure, there may be yawning.

Comorbid Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Abnormal heart rate (high or low heart rate)
  • Tingling in extremities
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Inability to concentrate, being easily distracted

Treatment Options

The treatment depends on the underlying cause. A diagnosis cannot be reached merely on the basis of yawning, as this is more of an annoying symptom which may, only in some cases, be an indicator of a possible underlying disease. Thus, for people who are excessively yawning, they can go to a doctor and get themselves checked for any suspected heart disease.
Normally, people who are excessively yawning despite not being tired may be showing overactivity of the vagus nerve. Excessive yawning should be ideally diagnosed and treated at the earliest, as it may have certain grave repercussions on long term basis, like temporomandibular joint dysfunctions, lock jaw, etc.
However, more often than not, a suspected diagnosis is made on the basis of other symptoms that are seen in conjunction with this problem, like frequent headaches, shortness of breath, anxiety attacks, etc.
Besides being extremely discomforting and annoying, excessive yawning in itself is not a very alarming symptom. However, it should not be taken lightly, as it may be a vital indicator towards a more serious underlying disease or disorder.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.