Yawning is a natural and involuntary bodily function that can be caused by fatigue, boredom or even a response to someone else yawning. But excessive yawning—which DiagnoseMe.com describes as one to four a minute—can be a sign that your diet is unbalanced, you have an allergy or a medical condition 1. Always rule out lack of sleep and exercise and poor diet before considering the more serious reasons behind your yawns.
Some of the foods and drinks you think are boosting your energy could be doing the complete opposite. You might drink coffee to give you an energy boost, but too much can actually cause fatigue and yawning, says Wellsphere. This is because the energy high is followed by an even bigger energy low. Foods that are high in sugar—and those you are even mildly allergic to—can have the same effect. If you notice you are yawning and feeling tired after eating, write down everything you eat for a week and how you feel after every meal. This will help pinpoint any foods that are having an adverse effect on you.
- Some of the foods and drinks you think are boosting your energy could be doing the complete opposite.
- You might drink coffee to give you an energy boost, but too much can actually cause fatigue and yawning, says Wellsphere.
Caffeine & Heart Palpitations
It’s perfectly normal to feel tired and start yawning toward the end of the day, but some people constantly feel fatigued and have an uncontrollable desire to fall asleep, no matter what time it is or where they are. According to MedicineNet.com, this is a neurological condition called excessive daytime sleepiness, or narcolepsy 3. It affects more than 100,000 Americans and, although it's not always serious, it does require medical attention.
Excessive yawning can also be a sign of a vasovagal reaction, which might indicate heart problems 14. MedicineNet.com describes this reaction as being an involuntary reflex of your nervous system that slows your heart down, reduces your blood pressure and diverts the blood to your legs instead of to your head 4. As your brain is deprived of oxygen, these episodes can cause fainting. Other neurological conditions associated with excessive yawning include epilepsy, brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, says DiagnoseMe.com 1.
- It’s perfectly normal to feel tired and start yawning toward the end of the day, but some people constantly feel fatigued and have an uncontrollable desire to fall asleep, no matter what time it is or where they are.
Neurological conditions aside, the medical reasons behind excessive yawning are generally mild and easy to treat 1. According to Wellsphere, allergies and hay fever often give rise to congestion or breathing problems, which can interrupt sleep and therefore make you yawn more often than you would normally.
Fatigue is also one of the most common side effects of anemia, which is caused by a lack of iron in the blood. This condition can go undiagnosed because many people don’t think tiredness is a serious enough reason to go to the doctor, says Wellsphere. If you are tired and yawning more than usual—and you think your diet might be low in iron—consider getting tested for anemia.
A sluggish thyroid can cause extreme tiredness because it regulates your metabolism, says Wellsphere. If you are consistently tired and you can rule out the other causes of fatigue and yawning, visit your doctor for a blood test to check if your thyroid is functioning normally.
- Neurological conditions aside, the medical reasons behind excessive yawning are generally mild and easy to treat 1.
- If you are consistently tired and you can rule out the other causes of fatigue and yawning, visit your doctor for a blood test to check if your thyroid is functioning normally.
Caffeine & Heart Palpitations
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- DiagnoseMe.com: Excessive Yawning
- Wellsphere: Feeling Tired? Several Surprising Reasons Why You May Be Yawning
- MedicineNet.com: Definition of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
- MedicineNet.com: Definition of Vasovagal Reaction
- Gupta S, Mittal S. Yawning and its physiological significance. Int J Appl Basic Med Res. 2013;3(1):11-5. doi:10.4103/2229-516X.112230
- BBC. One of science's most baffling questions? Why we yawn. Updated August 11, 2014.
- Béné J, Bastides M, Auffret M, Gautier S. Serotonin and yawning: A possible adverse drug reaction during antidepressant therapy. Presse Med. 2014;43(10 Pt 1):1135-6. doi:10.1016/j.lpm.2013.12.018
- Gallup AC. Ambient temperature modulates yawning. Temperature (Austin). 2016;3(1):23-4. doi:10.1080/23328940.2015.1066925
- Medical University of South Carolina. Yawning: why and what could it mean?
- American Scientist. Yawning. November/December 2005.
- Corey TP, Shoup-knox ML, Gordis EB, Gallup GG. Changes in physiology before, during, and after yawning. Front Evol Neurosci. 2011;3:7. doi:10.3389/fnevo.2011.00007
- Library of Congress. Why do we yawn?
- Duke Health. Contagious yawning may not be linked to empathy; still largely unexplained. Updated January 20, 2016.
- Guggisberg AG, Mathis J, Schnider A, Hess CW. "Why Do We Yawn?." Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010;34(8):1267-76. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.03.008.
- Gupta S, Mittal S. "Yawning and Its Physiological Significance." Int J Appl Basic Med Res. 2013;3(1):11-5. doi: 10.4103/2229-516X.112230.
- Massen JJM, Gallup, AC. "Why Contagious Yawning Does Not (Yet) Equate to Empathy." Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017;80:573-585.
- Provine, RR. (2013). Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping, and Beyond. Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; Reprint edition
Jessica began her writing career in 1995 and is Senior Editor at a London communications agency, where she writes and edits corporate publications covering health, I.T., banking and finance. Jessica has also written for consumer magazines including "Cosmopolitan" and travel, home/lifestyle and bridal titles. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and journalism from the University of Queensland.