How to stop yawning so much? Understanding and Managing Excessive Yawning

Those experiencing excessive yawning can learn why we yawn, what might cause excessive yawning, and what steps can be taken to stop it. 


Can’t stop yawning? It’s normal before bed or even in the morning before the caffeine from your coffee hits, but it’s less pleasant when it occurs all day. Maybe you’re even yawning now as you read about it, even though you don’t feel tired.

If you’re suffering from excessive yawning, there may be other health conditions at play. Let’s explore them further and see if we can get to the bottom of your excessive yawning once and for all—and devise a plan to manage it. 

Why Do We Yawn?

Yawning is an involuntary reflex, meaning you don’t make the decision to open your mouth, breathe in deeply, and then exhale quickly—you just do it. 

Involuntary reflexes are often triggered by signals sent in the brain or body. For example, your heart beating is an involuntary reflex; you don’t have to think about it, it just happens. Same with sneezing—you don’t tell your body to sneeze, but when something irritates the hairs inside your nose, sneezing occurs. 

Along these lines, we also don’t control yawns. While researchers are not entirely sure why yawning occurs, common triggers are fatigue and boredom. Specifically, the theory is that yawning helps to wake up the brain as it forces the muscles in the face and neck to move. Researchers believe this movement stimulates the carotid artery, which then increases your heart rate. 

To further support this theory, yawning may have the same effects as caffeine. Similar to when consuming caffeine, the amount of electricity that the skin conducts increases when yawning. As we know, caffeine promotes wakefulness, so the fact that caffeine and yawning have this similar physiological response may indicate that both these actions have the same function: to wake up the body. 

Other theories around yawning include its use as communication between species (due to its contagiousness) and its potential ability to cool the brain by increasing blood flow to the face, allowing more heat to dissipate. 

What Might Be Causing Excessive Yawning?

The most common cause of yawning is feeling tired, which is why most yawning is done right before bed or in the morning when you wake up but are still trying to “wake up.” If you’re drowsy, tired, or fatigued, this yawning may even extend into the day.

Other common causes of excessive yawning include sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea, and sleep deprivation from stress, insomnia, or shift work. Both sleep disorders and sleep deprivation can result in daytime sleepiness from poor nighttime sleep. 

Yet another common cause of excessive yawning—not connected to daytime sleepiness—is medication used to treat depression or anxiety, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). A side effect of these medications may be excessive yawning. 

Less commonly, excessive yawning may be a sign of other health conditions, such as:

Conditions causing a vasovagal reaction—a significant drop in your heart rate and blood pressure—may also cause excessive yawning. This reaction can result from a sleep disorder, pain, severe coughing, serious heart conditions, standing up too quickly, overheating, or dehydration. 

Getting to the Bottom of Your Excessive Yawning

If you’re worried about your excessive yawning being a sign of a more serious health condition, whether because you’re at a higher risk or have other symptoms, it’s best to talk to your doctor. They may order a series of tests to help determine the cause of your excessive yawning. 

One test they may use is an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the electrical activity in the brain. It can help diagnose stroke, epilepsy, parasomnias (e.g., sleepwalking), dementia, or brain injuries. 

An MRI scan is another test that uses powerful magnetics to produce detailed images of the body. These pictures may be used to diagnose heart problems, spinal cord and brain disorders, abnormalities in major organs, or joint injuries.

Your doctor may also look at any medications you are prescribed to see if the excessive yawning may result from it as a side effect. If this is a possibility, your doctor may recommend a lower dosage. Be sure to wait for your doctor’s recommendation on this, though—don’t stop taking your medication without their approval.  

Excessive Yawning as a Sleep Problem

In most cases, excessive yawning results from a lack of sleep, sometimes due to a sleep disorder. In these cases, it’s best to implement some techniques that promote a more restful sleep, such as:

Exercising regularly. This reduces stress and burns energy during the day to help you sleep better at night. (Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime!)
Keeping a regular sleep schedule and following it even on weekends
Evicting electronics from your bedroom to prevent distractions
Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and large meals before bed
Creating an optimal sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet

In addition to implementing the above habits of good sleep hygiene, your doctor may also recommend sleep-aid supplements. 

To get to the bottom of a possible sleep disorder, your doctor may order a polysomnography (PSG), an overnight sleep study that monitors your heart rate, brain waves, leg movements, and breathing. This test can help diagnose sleep apnea (obstructive or central) and sleep-related hypoventilation/hypoxia. 

Lessen Yawning Through Better Sleep 

Everyone yawns, from babies to adults to animals, and while we’re not quite sure why, hypotheses range from waking up the brain to helping it cool down. Whatever the reason, it can be unpleasant when you yawn all day.

In many cases, excessive yawning occurs when you don’t get enough quality sleep at night, so your first remedy should often be to look at your sleep hygiene and see if any areas could use improvement. Pillow offers resources on improving your sleep that are a great place to start. 

If this alone does not stop your excessive yawning, a doctor is your best bet for determining why you’re yawning so much. They can discuss any other symptoms with you and order tests to help determine the cause of your excessive yawning. With the help of your doctor, you can treat the root cause of your yawning so that you can spend less time yawning and more time living.


Written by

Jessica G

Medical writer freelancer who has written hundreds of articles on varying topics. Masters of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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