What is excessive yawning?
Yawning is a mostly involuntary process of opening the mouth and breathing in deeply, filling the lungs with air. It is a very natural response to being tired. In fact, yawning is usually triggered by sleepiness or fatigue. Some yawns are short, and some last for several seconds before an open-mouthed exhale.
Excessive yawning is yawning that occurs more than once per minute. Although excessive yawning is usually attributed to being sleepy or bored, it may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Certain conditions can cause a vasovagal reaction, which results in excessive yawning. During a vasovagal reaction, there is increased activity in the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain down to the throat and into the abdomen. When the vagus nerve becomes more active, heart rate and blood pressure drop significantly. The reaction can indicate anything from a sleep disorder to a serious heart condition.
How common is excessive yawning?
Excessive yawning. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Which signs and symptoms can excessive yawning usually be associated with?
Related signs and symptoms include:
- Watery eyes
- Audible sighs
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slower reflexes or responses
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling unmotivated
- Weak or aching muscles
- Pain in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the upper body
- Extreme fatigue or exhaustion
- Numbness or tingling in the body, face, arms, or legs
- Problems with vision
- Difficulty walking or balancing
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling extremely sleepy in the daytime
- Edema in the hands or feet and excess fluid collecting inside the abdomen
- Memory loss
- Changes in personality
What causes excessive yawning?
Causes of excessive yawning can include:
- Sleep problems. A common reason for excessive yawning is tiredness or fatigue. If people are having difficulty getting enough sleep, they may find themselves yawning a lot more than usual.If people experience constant fatigue or sleepiness during the day, or if they have a sleep disorder, they should see their doctor for advice. A person may not realize that they have sleep problems. For example, a person who has obstructive sleep apnea may not have easily recognizable waking symptoms, but it affects the quality of their sleep and can leave the person feeling tired throughout the day.
- Anxiety. Anxiety is a common trigger for yawning. Anxiety affects the heart, respiratory system, and energy levels. These can all cause breathlessness, yawning, and feelings of stress.If a person experiences a lot of anxiety, they may find themselves yawning more often than other people, or more often than when they are not feeling as anxious. Anxiety-related yawning often gets worse when a person feels more anxious, but it can also arise with no obvious trigger.
- Medications. People may experience excessive yawning if they take certain medications. Fatigue or drowsiness is a common side effect of many over-the-counter and prescription drugs.Medications that could cause excessive yawning include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants, antihistamines, and some pain relief medications.
- Depression can cause or exacerbate yawning due to either side effects of antidepressants or fatigue that comes with depression. If a person with depression is finding themselves yawning frequently, or more than usual, they can discuss this with their doctor, who may then be able to change medication doses or check for any other causes.
- Heart problems. Excessive yawning can be related to the vagus nerve, which runs from the bottom of the brain down to the heart and stomach. In some cases, excessive yawning may indicate bleeding around the heart or even a heart attack.
- People who have had a stroke may yawn excessively. Doctors believe that this is because yawning may help regulate and reduce the brain and body’s core temperature after brain injury from a stroke. Some research suggests that the process of yawning involves the brain stem, the base area of the brain that connects to the spinal cord. Excessive yawning may happen before or after a stroke.
- People with epilepsy may yawn excessively, such as before, during, or after seizures that begin in the temporal lobe. This is called temporal lobe epilepsy. People with epilepsy may also experience excessive yawning due to the fatigue that epilepsy can cause.
- Multiple sclerosis. People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may experience excessive yawning due to MS-related fatigue, or to address the disrupted temperature regulation caused by MS. Excessive yawning may also arise with other central nervous system disorders. Yawning is also linked with elevated cortisol, which is a stress hormone in the body. This may be why yawning is related to anxiety and fatigue, both of which place the body under stress. One study suggests that recognizing abnormal rises in cortisol might help detect some neurological conditions, such as MS and early-onset dementia.
- Liver failure. People may yawn excessively during the last stages of liver failure. Scientists believe that this is due to the fatigue that liver failure causes.
- Brain tumor. In rare cases, excessive yawning can be a symptom of a frontal lobe or brain stem tumor.
The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of excessive yawning. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What increases my risk for excessive yawning?
There are many risk factors for excessive yawning, such as:
- Extreme fatigue, drowsiness, or tiredness
- Changes in sleep-wake cycle
- Excessive stress
- Anxiety resulting in hyperventilation
- Certain medical conditions and medications
Please consult with your doctor for further information.
When to see your doctor
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has a sudden increase in your yawning, especially if you’ve been yawning frequently for no apparent reason.
On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage excessive yawning?
If excessive yawning is occurring as a result of a sleep disorder, your doctor may recommend sleep-aid medications or techniques for getting more restful sleep. These may include using a breathing device, exercising to reduce stress, adhering to a regular sleep schedule, etc.
Yawning can be embarrassing in some occasions as it gives the impression that you’re less-than enthused, and that’s definitely not something you want while you’re in the middle of a deep conversation, or an important board meeting.
There are some tips that may help you restrain from yawning an an inappropriate moment, such as:
- Take a few deep breaths through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- Drink a cool beverage. During those important moments, keep a cool beverage handy. If you feel the need to yawn, take a sip of ice water.
- Snack on cool foods, such as refrigerated watermelon or cucumber, whenever you want to avoid yawning.
- Keep your environment cool. Because one reason we yawn when the brain’s temperature too warm, it’ll help to avoid sitting in a hot environment.
- Use a cool compress. If you really want to make sure you don’t yawn during that important meeting, press a cool compress against your head and hold it there for a minute or two before heading into the board room. This should keep you cool enough to ward off the yawns until you get back to your desk.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
5 Tips to Avoid an Embarrassing Yawn. https://www.livescience.com/36110-yawn-contagious.html. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Factors Behind Excessive Yawning. https://www.epainassist.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-yawning. Accessed March 14, 2019.
What causes excessive yawning? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324401.php. Accessed March 14, 2019.
What Causes Excessive Yawning? https://www.healthline.com/symptom/excessive-yawning. Accessed March 14, 2019.
Review Date: March 14, 2019 | Last Modified: March 14, 2019