Cats, dogs, snakes, turtles and even a fetus inside the womb we now know do it, they all yawn. But why? Our system is far to advanced to have it just for no reason, so it has a function for sure. But what? Check out the latest brain research and use yawning in your advantage.

When do we yawn?
We yawn when we get tired, we all know this also has been concluded in a recent research that yawning occurs more when people get bored. A group of people were observed watching a 30 minute slow rock video. The results were as expected: 50% more yawning was done as the control group and it was concluded that yawning is connected to boredom. But why? What is the function of displaying yawns at boredom or being tired? Another source for yawning that contradicts these can be found in athletes, just before they enter a match or competition a dramatic increase of yawning happens. Is it because they are nervous?

Yawning when you see others do it
It’s been proven that if you see others yawn, you can start yawning too. Even when you read about it (have I made you YAWN yet?) you can start yawning. Yawning for some reason is a social event that others do when seeing it and even works cross breed. Especially very social strong animals, like dogs, will yawn when they see you do it. It’s quite fun, try it at your dog. Why in the world do we have that function?

What is yawning
To find the answer we have to look at a research only just recently (2014) published. We were able to figure out what is actually happening when a neuroscientist found that yawning cools down the brain. Physiologically the mouth stretches, a big full lung intake is made and at the same time the heart rate accelerates greatly. This increases the blood flow to the brains with cool air causing brain cooling.
To confirm this theory, he investigated yawning in different temperatures. In the winter when the air is cool (and thus yawning has bigger result) a dramatic higher frequency of yawning was noted in his experiments then in summer when the weather was hot (hardly any yawning because the air is too hot to cool).

A cool brain is needed why?
What does this have to do with being bored, tired or about to make a great effort or copying yawning? A cooler brain is actually faster then a hot one. A cool brain increases alertness. The origin must be evolutionary, where being on watch but remaining alert due to yawning saves lives. The copying of yawning could be away of a brain telling others in your group to stay alert to, even your dog hunting companion. It would also explain the athletes yawn as going for a big hunt where alertness should be highest also should benefit of yawning.

So the next time you’re going in for the prizes, feel a bit tired while studying, just read this text again and stay cool brained, YAWN!

Andrew G. Gallup, PhD, postdoctoral research associate, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, Princeton University, New Jersey.
Adrian G. Guggisberg, MD, division of neurorehabilitation, University of Geneva, Switzerland.
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