why do we yawn?

Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2011 09:53 pm
No one seems to know what causes organisms to yawn. The leading theory has to do with thermoregulation of the body which is used to cool the brain, another is to supply oxygen to the brain, another one is boredom, but I have my own theory which I've spent much time thinking out and which makes more sense to me than all the others. See if it makes sense to you too, since we all can relate to yawning! (It's fun to think about each time you yawn as well).

here it is:

Theory of Yawning
The primary function of a yawn is to provide a short preview of the sleeping state to induce prolonged sleep. In order to do so, the body mimics the sleeping state in one motion. Examining the physiology of the yawn will reveal the bodies motives; the reduction of senses to provide a similar state of that during sleep. By providing an experience similar to the state the body is urging the consciousness to enter into, the body and mind can communicate effectively. Seeing is reduced by closing the eyes, hearing is empirically reduced (possibly from the connection of the Eustachian tube to the back of the throat and inhale of oxygen), the jaw contraction and deep inhale of oxygen thwarts the sense of smell and taste with the exhale, while the sense of touch is reduced from the attentiveness to the yawn. For a brief moment, the body enters into a state almost identical to sleep (Similar to offering samples of food at a grocery store to encourage the direction of a future movement to buy the whole product and experience the state again but this time satisfyingly).

To those who present some of the senses described above during the yawn do not relate or have not been experienced within their yawning experience, e.g., hearing reduction, can take into account the spectrum of yawns. My hypotheses states a light sleeper will not experience a yawn with all senses reduced but only a select few, whereas a person who considers themselves a deep sleeper will experience the extreme end in sense reduction. The yawn suits the type of experience provided by the sleeper. Or a single person can experience the spectrum of yawns, along with the frequency, from the amount of sleep deprived.

To those who argue external senses can influence the sleeping state, e.g., dreaming of dancing to the tune of the alarm clock ringtone, can take into account the process of senses moving from the external world to the internal. It is not a light switch which is either outside or inside, but rather a gradual process from state to state, similar to a dimmer switch. So although external senses can be observed during sleep, the body and mind empirically reduce attention toward external senses significantly.

To juxtapose the findings of Andrew Gallup, which recognized the mechanisms controlling the expression of yawning are involved in thermoregulatory physiology which promotes brain cooling (http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S31/64/49G23/), with the theory yawning is an act of entering into a brief state of sleep to encourage the consciousness to enter into a prolonged similar state of sleep, the two correlate perfectly. While sleeping it is known the body lowers its temperature, so in attempts to portray the sleeping state accurately, the body would include in its motion to alert the mind a decreased body temperature along with the reduction of senses.

Ideas from the implication of the theory(not meant to be criticized)
**These suggestions should be taken only as mere suggestions of further research and of the lateral mind exploring**

1) From using the rudimentary principle of this theory, the body-mind connection can communicate by providing a glimpse of a state to encourage future actions involving the state. Which this principle can be applied to other bodily functions, for example the process of sexual arousal. Earlier mentioned this can be described as a marketing strategy to influence the consumer to buy a product (Similar to offering samples of food at a grocery store to encourage the direction of a future movement to buy the whole product and experience the state again but this time satisfyingly). By identifying this symbolism, one can identify other marketing strategies and then apply it toward the body-mind connection with other bodily processes and see what is found. For example, the stomach growling could be an act of previewing a state which in this case is digesting without food and making apparent the growling of the stomach—marketing strategy with advertising the effects of the absence of a product. (Since a proposed theory which states empathy causes contagious yawning proven by the lack of contagious autistic yawners, could being surrounded by a bunch of hungry people make you hungry or mimic stomach growls?)

2) Similar to my first suggestion but on a grander scale, the body-mind connection in a social situation. Certain emotional states can be provoked upon recognizing a face which once produced a particular experience, to either avoid or encourage behavior toward the individual. The next step is to identify the body-mind connection occurrence throughout Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

3) Yawning is a mimic of the moment of waking up from sleep (in efforts to incorporate the jaw contraction in a new light). Upon waking, evaluation of sleep occurs, which by producing a similar process of waking up, the consciousness would then evaluate the necessity of sleep upon returning from a yawn.

4) Certain disorders have been linked to excessive yawning. Perhaps the healing cannot be achieved through the conscious mind because the disorder has caged in the consciousness to a patterned neural pathway, which can only be escaped from entering into sleep.

5)Yawning could potentially be an attempt to reap the benefits of sleep by not encouraging entering into sleep. If a person is in a heightened or excited state, by yawning and consciously acknowledging the sleep state could reassure rest in the future, even though it is not needed at the moment. Or if a person is breathing shallowly, by yawning it allows a conscious redirection of a breathing pattern by acknowledging the process of breathing during sleep.

6) My theory outlines the body-mind communication through yawning (mostly body to mind), to juxtapose empirical evidence of yawning from boredom, it could be the reverse.. the mind is tricking the body. From not being keenly aware of the surroundings and from introversion, signals to the body of a false preparation of sleep is being transmitted. Thus, the bodies acknowledgement of the received message from the mind is sent through yawning, almost to say, "hey I got your message you want to sleep, I'm on page with you and I'll start preparing for sleep as well."

(If you spent the time to read it, please spend the time to comment on it! Any feedback is welcome.)
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Robert Gentel
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2011 09:59 pm
Upon what do you base this theory?
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2011 11:13 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Mostly from empircally observering yawning, however I'm continuing to research literature in the field and have found some research to back it up. This is a hypothesis, which can potentially be a theory. Has not been experimented on yet, but I plan to do so in the near future.
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2011 11:28 pm
Will BIG YAWN be the title of the study?
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2011 12:26 am
yes, I could create a paradox. :p
Region Philbis
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2011 07:02 am

uh, you posted this already...
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2011 09:32 am
@Region Philbis,
Very good observation -_-
I tend to post things late at night when nobody is online, so I figured I'd post it again to reach out to a different audience.
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Reply Fri 2 Dec, 2011 11:53 am
So what you are saying, is that yawning induces sleep, and that is why it exists?

Reply Sat 10 Dec, 2011 12:35 pm
From last posting this until now and conversing with others, I have examined the point I was trying to convey is hidden beneath. I leaned toward yawning inducing sleep, yes. But allow me to clarify:

The underlying idea which should have been the primary focus of my theory is body-mind communication.
When the body recognizes sleep deprivation, it must 'communicate' to the mind that the body needs sleep. In this message the mind must be able to identify the message being conveyed as sleep. Since this message is nonverbal in order to communicate the message of sleep, based on the stored information in the mind of what 'sleep' is, along with the body processes which involve sleep, the body will use this to communicate the message of sleep. Upon the mind receiving the message, it will acknowledge the request of the body and then choose the next action. The yawn IS the communication from body to mind, similar to the spoken words of language.
Identifying this dynamic allows other empirical experiences to be explained as well.
Reply Fri 30 Dec, 2011 11:21 am
I don't see why "feeling tired" would not suffice, if indeed a "signal to the mind" is necessary. Do other organisms need a "sleep signal to the mind" in order to sleep? Like fruit flies for example?

And what about yawning when we are bored, apparent yawning in other animals (primates, birds, fish, snakes, etc.), contagiousness, and physiological aspects such as the opening of the Eustachian tubes?

Others have hypothesized that yawning actually serves to keep us awake (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6270036.stm).

In any case, if you think you have a good hypothesis, you should try to test it.

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