Excessive yawning: 5 surprising reasons you shouldn't ignore
Boredom or fatigue can cause you to yawn more than usual, but if you are yawning too much without any particular reason, it may indicate certain neurological disorders or chronic health conditions. Experts tell more.
Yawning is a reflex action of opening your jaw wide, taking in a deep breath and then rapidly exhaling it. Yawning is completely normal and, on an average, humans yawn 5 to 10 times a day. However, according to Sleep Foundation, people who yawn excessively do it many more times each day. According to studies, in some cases people who yawn excessively reported yawning up to 100 times in a day. Of course, if you are trying to stay awake beyond your usual bedtime, you may find yourself yawning more than normal. An interesting fact about yawning is that it can be contagious meaning if you see or hear somebody yawn, you may yawn too. (Also read: Trouble sleeping: A common symptom of long COVID)
But if you are yawning too much without any particular reason, it may indicate either sleep deficit caused by a sleep or neurological disorder or other health conditions. It could also mean you are excessively tired, stressed or have depression or anxiety.
Many reasons behind yawning
"Yawning is a neurological reaction of vagus nerve connecting the abdomen and heart with the brain. The causes of yawning may be as simple as boredom or lack of interest. Psychiatric issues like anxiety or depression, sleep deprivation on narcolepsy could also be responsible for too much yawning. These reasons may include conditions like low blood sugars, onset of epilepsy, neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and rarely gut bleeding, liver cirrhosis or even a cardiac ailment causing falling blood pressure," Dr Amitabh Parti, Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
"Yawning can be a marker of many diseases or abnormalities. One should be aware of the same. It can indicate sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnoea leading to excessive daytime sleepiness.
It can be a marker of metabolic disease like hepatic encephalopathy which occurs in patients with cirrhosis or chronic liver disease. It can occur in people with epilepsy i.e. fits especially where frontal lobe is involved. It can occur in neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis where immune system attacks the protective covering over the nerves," says Dr Honey Savla, Consultant Internal Medicine, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central.
"Yawning indicates that a person has a tendency to sleep excessively during the day. As a result, excessive daytime sleepiness is common in people who get insufficient sleep at night. So insufficient sleep is one of the most common reasons why people are tired the next day and yawn excessively," says Dr Sourabh Pahuja, Consultant, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.
"The point of importance is that more or less it is considered as sign and symptom of excessive sleepiness where the atmosphere and the surroundings around us are not stimulatory enough to keep the mind fresher and more active. These are not the only causes, if it is excessive then neurological causes have to be entertained which means Parkinson's, parkinsonian disease, acute strokes," says Dr Rajiv Dang, Senior Director and HOD - Internal Medicine and Medical Director, Max Hospital Gurgaon.
If the body temperature is more
"Some areas of the brain where the temperature regulation is said to be off track because number of animal studies have been carried out that if the body temperature is more, the brain temperature is therefore more and animals starts yawning, therefore in the same light if you yawn, it is better to have water over tea/coffee and keep yourself hydrated well. In case, the consumption of cold liquids is more useful to us. To take anything cold or to hold something cold is another simple way to stop yawning," says Dr Dang.
Here are other reasons of excessive yawning as per Dr Parti.
Obstructive sleep apnea
Another important etiology, as far as excessive daytime sleepiness and yawning are considered in the full sense of the word, is obstructive sleep apnoea. We all know that the patient has apnoeic episodes at night, so they are not able to sleep peacefully at night. So they are tired throughout the day, and they keep on yawning throughout the day.
Certain aetiologies like narcolepsy, which is one of a few sleep-related disorders in which people have an excessive tendency to doze off during the daytime. So that's why they do a lot of yawning during the day.
There are those who suffer from insomnia and are unable to sleep at night. They also have a lot of tendencies to doze off in the morning hours while they are working.
Other medical conditions
Then there are a few medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, that cause you to yawn a lot. So, yawning is an important phenomenon, and it's a symptom of many disorders. A person should contact a sleep disorder specialist to get to the root. The issue is important to be addressed because at times these patients are prone to road traffic accidents while driving due to excessive tiredness and yawning.