You don’t say? The yarn on yawning

Each of us yawns, on average, about five to 20 times a day, with each yawn lasting about five seconds. But why exactly do we yawn? It turns out no one knows for sure.

Yawning is associated with sleepiness, but scientists haven’t found that it indicates a need for sleep. It doesn’t seem to be caused by the body having too little oxygen or too much carbon dioxide, which in theory could be fixed by taking a big, deep yawn. Instead, the yawn/sleep link may be a form of nonverbal communication. In baboons, extensive yawning among the troop signals it’s time to sleep. Here are some other common yawning theories, though none has been proven:

  • Yawning stretches out the lungs and nearby tissues, preventing tiny airways in the lungs from collapsing. This could explain why we seem to yawn when our breathing is shallow, like when we’re tired, bored, or just arising from bed.
  • Yawning stretches the muscles and joints, increases the heart rate, and may prepare the body for an increased level of alertness, especially after relaxation. This may be why pro athletes and musicians sometimes yawn before the need for greater focus.

Excessive yawning may be a symptom of a disease like multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Yawning also could signal an oncoming migraine headache.

Finally, why do yawns seem contagious? Mimicking a yawn could be a form of social mirroring, where we unintentionally imitate the actions of others. Other behaviors like laughing, leg crossing, and scratching fall into this category.

  1. Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
  2. Matthew 18:15
    If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
  3. Ephesians 1:7-8
    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.
  4. Luke 6:37
    Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
  5. 1 Peter 3:9
    Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
  6. Romans 6:23
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  7. John 3:16-17
    For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
  8. Matthew 18:21-22
    Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
  9. Joel 2:13
    Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
  10. Psalm 65:3
    Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.
  11. Romans 4:5
    But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.

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