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Why we yawn

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We all yawn, but why we do it has long been a mysterious phenomenon. Turns out scientists have disproved the old "getting oxygen to our brain" theory.

While we often yawn when we're sleepy, it may not be the sleepiness that's causing the yawn.

"It's not surprising that there's a heightened level of yawning associated with being sleepy," says Dr. Andrew Gallup, an assistant professor of psychology at SUNY Oneonta and a leading researcher on the subject of yawning. "I would argue the yawns and sleepiness are both being associated or directed by changes in brain and body temperature."

His studies have shown that one reason we yawn is to cool our brain when it overheats. He also found as a result we yawn more in warmer temperatures.

"If we hold rooms quite cold or increase the air conditioning, it's likely to reduce yawning frequency," he said.

One commonly held theory that Gallup says does in fact hold true is that yawning is contagious. It could be a sign of empathy to our friends or family or even our pets that we yawn when they yawn and vice versa.

"Seeing, hearing, thinking about yawning, or even reading the word 'yawn' for humans can often elicit yawn contagion," he said.

With all this talk about yawns are you yawning yet? We sure are.

 

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