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A yawn is an involuntary reflex when we open our mouths and breathe in deeply. It is an automatic body response to being tired or stressed. However, yawning excessively is a cause for cause as it can be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Man Yawning
Man Yawning

Although researchers are not sure why yawning occurs, however, it is commonly triggered by boredom, fatigue, and tiredness. One popular theory also indicates that when we are tired, our brain starts to slow down which causes our temperature to drop, and yawning helps regulate our body temperature.

According to the findings of a study published in the journal ‘Physiology and Behaviour,’ it was noted that the frequency of yawning decreases during winter. Another theory indicates that yawning is our body’s way to waking itself up as it forces blood to rush to our face which increases the brain’s alertness.

Common causes of yawning

Yawning may occur as a result of the following-

Causes of excessive yawning

  • Anxiety- Anxiety affects our heart rate, breathing, and energy levels. Anxiety is a cause of fatigue, breathlessness, and stress. Therefore, it is a common trigger for yawning, especially when the person starts feeling anxious.

  • Sleep deprivation- Excessive yawning is a sign of sleep deprivation which can be caused by insomnia, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy. Insomnia is a sleep condition where a person is unable to sleep at night. Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that makes people sleepy during the day. People with narcolepsy can go to sleep suddenly. Lastly, sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which a person snores loudly and breathes irregularly.

  • Thermoregulatory disorders- Thermoregulation is our ability to regulate our body’s temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is different. Thermoregulatory disorders disrupt this ability and can lead to abnormal temperature fluctuations. Therefore, it can cause excessive yawning as our body is unable to regulate its temperature properly.

  • Heart problems- In some rare cases excessive yawning may indicate a heart attack or even bleeding around the heart. Heart conditions can trigger excessive yawning because excessive yawning is related to the vagus never which runs from the bottom of the brain down to the heart and stomach. See a doctor immediately if along with excessive yawning, you are experiencing frequent pain in the chest, nausea, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.

  • Stroke- Stroke victims generally experience excessive yawning. It is believed that yawning helps stroke victims regulate and reduce the brain and body’s core temperature.

  • Multiple sclerosis- Multiple sclerosis is a disease in which the immune system eats away the protective covering of nerves resulting in nerve damage that disrupts the communication between the brain and body. Multiple sclerosis can cause a lot of fatigue and disrupt the temperature of the body, therefore, a person suffering from multiple sclerosis may experience excessive yawning.


Treatment for excessive yawning depends upon the cause of yawning.

  • Excessive yawning due to a sleep problem- A person can treat excessive yawning caused by sleep problems by improving their sleep cycle and seeking assistance from a doctor in case of sleep apnea, insomnia, or narcolepsy.

  • Excessive yawning caused as a side effect of medication- If you are experiencing excessive yawning because of a side effect of a medication, then ask your doctor to either change the medication or prescribe a lower dose.

  • Excessive yawning caused by stress- Stress-related excessive yawning can be fixed by burning energy during the day. Exercise regularly in the morning and stop exercising right before bedtime.

Even though yawning is a common reflex in all human beings, you should see your doctor if you have been yawning excessively because it might be caused by an underlying medical condition such as epilepsy, liver failure, stroke, or cardiac problems.

Disclaimer - This content including suggestions provide general information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion hence always consult an expert or doctor for more information.

First published on: 28 Jan 2023, 15:36 IST

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