Yawning involves opening the mouth involuntarily while taking a long, deep breath of air. This is usually done as a result of drowsiness or weariness. Excessive yawning is yawning that happens more often than would be expected, even if drowsiness or weariness is present.
Yawning is a normal response to fatigue and drowsiness, but excessive yawning can be caused by a vasovagal reaction. This reaction is caused by the action of a nerve, called the vagus nerve, on the blood vessels. It may indicate a heart problem.
Normal yawning may happen when someone else yawns.
- Drowsiness or weariness
- Disorders associated with excessive daytime sleepiness
- Vasovagal reaction
Follow the treatment for the underlying cause.
Call your health care provider if
- You experience unexplained and excessive yawning.
- The yawning is associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.
What to expect at your health care provider's office
The health care provider will get your medical history and do a physical examination.
Medical history questions may include:
- When did the excessive yawning begin?
- How many times do you yawn per hour or day?
- Is the yawning the same throughout the day?
- Is it worse in the morning, after lunch, or during exercise?
- Is it worse in certain areas or certain rooms?
- Does yawning interfere with normal activities?
- Is the increased yawning related to the amount of sleep you get?
- Is it related to use of medications?
- Is it related to activity level?
- Is it related to boredom?
- What helps it?
- Does rest help?
- Does breathing deeply help?
- What other symptoms are present?
- What medications are you taking?
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include sleep studies.
Hermanowicz N. Cranial nerves IX (glossopharyngeal) and X (vagus). In: Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 13.
LeWinter MM. Pencardial diseases. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 70.
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Review Date: 2/22/2009
Review By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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