What causes excessive yawning: The Health Encyclopedia

About yawning

Yawning is the act of involuntarily opening the mouth, accompanied with a deep breath that makes air to fill the lungs.

Yawns can be short or long (for a couple of seconds) before the inhaled air is exhaled by a deep breath or sigh. It can make the eyes watery. It is readily spread to a person who is closer in proximity to the “yawner”.

Some authorities have even submitted that yawning is a temperature cooling phenomenon in the brain.

It is possible for this act to become excessive. The causes of its excessiveness can be attributed to so many causes. That is the essence of this article – exploring them.

But before we go on to see the possible causes of excessive yawning, when can yawning be said to be excessive?

Excessive yawning is said to occur when in a minute, more than one yawn happens. When this becomes so frequent, it might be an underlying medical condition other than its natural trigger – tiredness, boredom, stress or sleepiness. It might be a subtle indicator of any of these; brain tumor, body temperature control failure, heart attack, epilepsy, liver failure or multiple sclerosis (MS). There is hence a need to contact a medical doctor.


Causes of excessive yawning

The definite causes of excessive yawning have not been known, but possible causes have been deduced by different authorities. Some include;

  1. Heart bleeding. This can occur either in the heart or around it.
  2. Drowsiness, tiredness, or fatigue
  3. Sleep-associated disorders e.g. narcolepsy, sleep apnea etc.
  4. Medication-induced side effects especially depressive-maniac disorders medications, anxiety etc. A notable medication-induced drowsiness is seen when a kind of selective inhibitor called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is used.



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Diagnosis for excessive yawning

The first thing usually done to excessive yawning cases when they are presented is to assess the sleep history of the patient. If it is ruled out that it not caused by sleep disorders, diagnostic tests are then carried out.

The diagnostic tests are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalogram, abbreviated as EEG. Sleep study test can also be carried out.

In MRI, powerful radio and magnetic waves are utilized so as to have a comprehensive view of the internal organs of the body. The organ pictures are then used to diagnose whether there is the brain, spinal cord or even heart abnormalities e.g. multiple sclerosis, brain tumors etc.

EEG is the way electrical activities of the brain are measured. It is carried out to see if there are underlying brain conditions e.g. epilepsy.

Sleep study test: If the cause is suspected to be a sleep disorder, the patient will be placed under observation by a sleep specialist. During this test, parameters such as brainwaves, heart rates and rhythms, oxygenation, breathing, and blood pressure are closely monitored. Certain body movements indicative of a sleep disorder are also looked out for by the specialist all through the night.


Treatment for excessive yawning

The treatment of excessive yawning is determined by the underlying cause of it. This, therefore, means that diagnosis of the cause of the excessive yawning precedes the choice of treatment. Treatment is cause-based. It is usually advisable to seek emergency care in cases when you are exposed to cold, have a head injury, drug overdose or when you are at the onset of taking a new medication.

  1. If the cause of excessive yawning is due to a sleep disorder, sleep-support medications will be administered to the patient. Certain techniques like regimented sleep schedule, use of a breathing apparatus and controlled-exercise can also be included.


  1. If it is medication-induced, a lower drug dosage will be administered. It is advisable to always seek help from a doctor in this regard and medications should be followed through.


  1. If the cause is an underlying liver condition or epilepsy, then the condition must be treated first.

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