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Valentina Carlile Osteopata
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The yawn: truth, myths and legends

The yawn: truth, myths and legends

There are many stories and theories that revolve around yawning, a semi-voluntary act as it is partly reflex and partly motor coordination, which occurs on various occasions such as when we wake up or when we go to sleep, when we see someone else yawning, when we are bored or to unplug your ears. But what is it and what does its physiology consist of?

Well, yawning is an act that sees the coordinated movement of the muscles of the chest, diaphragm, larynx, throat, palate and mouth. To go into more detail, by yawning, we help distribute the surfactant lining the alveoli in the lungs. All this is controlled by neurotransmitters located in the hypothalamus, neuropeptide proteins and hormones.

Why do we yawn?

The latest theories on the subject concern studies released around 2011 which highlight a possible relationship with blood circulation and temperature, and with the change in a behavioral state dictated by the circadian rhythm (transition from sleep to wakefulness and vice versa, from quiet/boredom to the traffic warden). Some studies specifically correlate yawning to brain temperature: when the brain becomes warmer than the optimal (homeostatic) temperature, yawning may cool the brain. The outside temperature could be an important influencing factor: if the outside temperature is warmer than normal, the body yawns less frequently. Other studies showed that the amount of yawning increased when both external temperature and brain temperature were increased.

Is yawning contagious?

Dr. Gallup, a psychologist, defines yawning as a "primitive empathic mechanism relating to the attribution of mental state" that is, yawning would activate imitation, empathy and social behavior at a central level towards the person who has just yawned.

I hope I haven't bored you into yawning!


Valentina Carlile - Osteopath expert in Osteopathy applied to voice and speech disorders since 2002. For information and reservations visit the page Contacts

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