Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. Today we will take a sneak peek at the topic of yawning. Specifically, when you notice your child yawning more than usual and are worried there might be possible ramifications. We hope we can be a resource for any worried parents, and help to put your mind at ease. Is it a sign of lack of oxygen to the brain? Is too much yawning dangerous? What does it mean if you yawn a lot?
These are the type of questions from parents we want to answer! (or at least try our best!).
Although, we stress that we are not giving any kind of professional medical advice. If you are worried (even after reading this article), then approach a local professional such as your family doctor as soon as possible!
The short answer is you should not be worried. Your child is likely tired or fatigued in some way. Get them plenty of rest, and if the problem persists take your child to visit a doctor. Do not continue Googling what you think the problem might be, simply go consult a professional. It is quite rare that excessive yawning in children turns into serious issues.
Why do people yawn?
A yawn seems like such a simple thing, right? But why do we yawn?
This question has been studied by numerous scientists over the years, and they still don’t know the answer (although it has been keeping them rather busy!)
What has been discovered is that the paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus (basically a part of your brain) is the place where most yawns start. This is like the nerve centre of yawns!
One of the traditional reasons we often hear is that yawning is due to a lack of oxygen in our lungs. Is this true or just an old wife’s tale!
According to Professor Mark Andrews in an article on Scientific American, it is more likely the latter (and he should know!). He makes the point that our lungs actually don’t monitor or sense the oxygen levels, and that a fetus even yawns when its lungs are not fully operational!
However, he does say that yawning has been known to happen when the paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus (remember that!! basically a part of your brain!) is low in oxygen. So, it may be linked to oxygen, but not in the way we first thought.
Another traditional way of thinking is that yawning happens when people are bored. But even this theory has not been clear cut with scientists. Yes, someone did a study asking teenagers to stare at a coloured line, while they asked another group to stare at a music video!
Guess what, the coloured line starers yawned more!
But another study based around monkeys, seemed to come to the conclusion that the yawning they observed was caused by status change or activity change in the monkeys (rather than boredom or any other of the reasons given for yawning!).
More recently in 2014, it has been reported that scientists now believe that yawning is a way to cool off your brain! When the brain is getting too hot to work efficiently, that’s why you yawn. The study this comes from also claims that when you are tired or fatigued your brain becomes hot, explaining why we yawn in these situations.
As you can see, there are no clear or consistent findings among scientists. Go on, I dare you to Google it! And you will go down the scientific black hole that I just went down!!
What is excessive yawning?
Harvard Health Publications have done studies and decided that the typical person averages around ten yawns per hour! Seems a bit high to me, but what do I know!!
So when we talk about excessive yawning, we mean anything significantly more than this ball park figure of ten yawns an hour.
No need to get your stopwatch out! Most parents should be able to spot excessive yawning naturally.
Is yawning contagious?
This is the most peculiar part of yawning, in my opinion. It definitely is contagious, but why!
We have all been there, when someone else yawns and we can’t help but follow. Apparently, people sometimes yawn when they see a picture of someone yawning! Or even when they read the word “yawn”, what a crazy world we live in!
The problem is, the scientists are baffled about this too, not being able to come up with a satisfactory answer as to why this happens!
Various scientists have put forward theories such as empathy, tiredness or energy levels causing contagious yawning. Some are even starting to think it may be a social phenomenon, as it has been seen to not start in children until around four years old.
So it does happen, but the jury is out on why!
Is there any meaning behind excessive yawning?
When some parents see their child yawning a lot, they may start to worry about the possible meaning. Does it mean my child is sick? Do they have a rare condition? All these ideas and worries will probably be rushing through your head right now.
After wading through all that “Science Stuff” earlier, I think we can safely assume that excessive yawning is a sign of your child being tired or fatigued, and possibly even hot!
There are certain conditions that can be diagnosed by excessive yawning, but these are usually rare in young children.
Can we do anything about excessive yawning?
In most cases, if you notice your child yawning excessively, you should make sure they are well rested. Then, if you notice this pattern continuing I would recommend taking your child to see a doctor. It really should be as simple as that!
What a yawn fest!
If you got to the end of this article, then well done! Give yourself a golden star!
I wonder how many times you yawned during this article!!
The topic of yawning is a complex and misunderstood one, with many scientists (and don’t forget the psychologists!) failing to decide on primary reasons for yawning. We are still at the experimental phase for most of their apparent findings.
When it comes to excessive yawning in children, I wanted to exercise a little bit of care. I have seen some articles on the subject (especially on the good old internet!) listing all kinds of links to excessive yawning. However, in this article, I chose not to include some of these more tentative links to medical conditions.
That would be a sure fire way to get parents searching for this subject convinced their child could have a serious ailment. The likelihood of this is quite slim in children.
This is why the main takeaway I want from this article is the following. If you have tried my suggestions and still see excessive yawning. Go visit a doctor.
Like I said at the start, I am not claiming to be an expert on the subject. I just want to provide a resource to help parents worried by these issues. Also, I wanted to report on this situation without putting every tentative link I could find to excessive yawning inside!
If you have any expertise in this field, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below.