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Excessive Yawning

What is Excessive Yawning?

Yawning is a reflex or involuntary process in which we open our mouths in order to take a deep breath of air. This reflex and deep inhalation of air seems to be a direct consequence of low levels of oxygen in the body. However, this does not fully explain why we yawn when we are bored, tired or drowsy. Some people yawn when traveling in a plane in order to alleviate the pressure they feel in their eardrums.

Interestingly enough, even though a person is paralyzed, the capacity to yawn is not affected. And what is even more interesting is that even fetuses yawn. However, in some situations, this reflex reaction can occur excessively. We call it excessive yawning when the process occurs in close repetitive sessions, somewhere around one to four yawns per minute. It is important to determine whether there is an underlying condition leading to the excessive yawning, as each yawn creates a tremendous pressure on the lungs.

Causes of Excessive Yawning

excessive yawningThese are the most common causes of excessive yawning:

  • State of drowsiness or weariness
  • Burnout syndrome, characterized by extreme fatigue, lack of energy and lethargy
  • Disorders in which the day-night cycle is affected (time zone changes included), being primarily characterized by sleepiness during the day or cases of insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic venous insufficiency (the blood flow through the veins is insufficient)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Vasovagal reaction:
    • Heart attack
    • Aortic dissection
  • Brain tumor and other disorders of the central nervous system
    • Epilepsy
    • Encephalitis
    • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Cerebrovascular stroke
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Medication (rare occasions) – antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, anti-allergy medication (antihistamines), medication for Parkinson’s disease
    • Particular case – opiate withdrawal
  • Disorders in which the body’s temperature is affected (rare cases)
  • Excessive weight
  • Physiological reaction to change of daily schedule (especially in those who work during the night or work for prolonged periods of time)
  • Hypothyroidism or electrolyte imbalance – both of these two medical conditions lead to drowsiness immediately after waking, which in turn can lead to excessive yawning
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – this is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid hormones are at low levels as well.
  • Excessive emotions, stress or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Respiratory disease:
    • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • Emphysema
    • Chronic bronchitis


Yawning excessively can be a sign that you are just overly tired but, at the same time, it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Treating that underlying pathology will also lead to the disappearance of the associated symptoms, including the excessive yawning.

Some studies have suggested that excessive yawning could be improved through yoga, physical exercise and meditation. However, these studies have not been yet applied to the general population and none of these activities will lead to the actual curing of the underlying condition.

If the excessive yawning is caused by a sleeping disorder, then you can always pay a visit to a professional sleeping clinic. Here, your sleeping patterns will be analyzed and the exact cause of the excessive yawning will be identified and then properly treated. Sleeping clinics are recommended for those who frequently change time zones, who suffer from insomnia or apnea during sleeping.

For those diagnosed with depression, severe anxiety or other similar problem, the solution is not to search a treatment for the excessive yawning. As with the other causes, one needs to address the root of the problem. In such situations, it might be a good idea to visit a therapist and start some counseling sessions. If your emotional state improves, then you will definitely stop yawning excessively as well.

Excessive working, without the proper rest, can lead to a wide range of upsetting symptoms, including excessive yawning. If you have the suspicion that you are suffering from the burnout syndrome, then be sure to make some lifestyle changes. Start sleeping at least seven or eight hours per night, eat fresh fruits and vegetables and keep regular meals. Drink plenty of water, rest and find a way to blend relaxation with work. As soon as you will leave the burned out state, you will stop yawning excessively.

As you can see, there is no wonder drug that will help you to stop yawning so frequently. Treat the underlying condition and you will forget about yawning shortly after that.

Excessive Yawning
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