Fact or Myth: Is Frequent Yawning is a Powerful Neural-Enhancing Tool?

This is a FACT.

Has anyone ever glared at you for yawning in public? Chances are, you answered “yes”.

But frequent yawning is actually very beneficial. According to Andrew Newburg, director of Penn University’s Center for Spirituality and the Mind, “frequent yawning is one of the best-kept secrets in neuroscience.”

Frequent yawning clears the brain of “sleepy fuzz”, bringing it into “a heightened state of cognitive awareness” while enhancing focus…consciousness…introspection…and self-awareness.

Unfortunately, most of us are taught from a young age that it’s rude to yawn. The roots of the social stigma attached to frequent yawning may be related to the association we make between sleepiness and boredom.

It’s true that frequent yawning increases when you’re tired, perhaps as the brain’s way of telling you to get some sleep. But that’s far from the whole story.

The yawn releases numerous neurochemicals, like dopamine. Once released, dopamine activates oxytocin production in the hypothalamus and hippocampus, areas of the brain essential for:

  • Memory recall
  • Voluntary control
  • Temperature regulation

If you want to enhance your intimate connection with another person, try yawning together. Oxytocin regulates such crucial functions as pleasure, sensuality, and bonding in relationships. frequent yaning

The other neurochemical and molecules involved in frequent yawning are just as important as dopamine. In fact, says Newburg, “It’s difficult to find another activity that positively influences so many areas of the brain.” No wonder, considering this lengthy list of neurological magic-makers released with every yawn, such as:

  • Acetylcholine
  • Nitric oxide
  • Glutamate
  • GABA
  • Serotonin
  • ACTH
  • MSH
  • Sexual hormones
  • Opium derivate peptides

Yawning also regulates the temperature and metabolism of your brain. Scientists believe frequent yawning evolved as a way to cool down the overly active mammalian brain. The famous contagious quality of yawning has led some to theorize that it may even be a primitive form of empathy.

The contagious nature of frequent yawning also makes it particularly easy to learn in group settings. You may wonder why you need to learn how to yawn… after all, don’t we do it spontaneously?

We do, of course, but “conscious yawning” is different because it can be used as a relaxation technique. “Yawning [will] bring you into a state of alertness faster than any other meditation technique I know of,” says Newburg.

It takes practice and discipline to overcome the inhibitions most of us have surrounding yawning. But it’s well worth the initial effort.

“All you have to do to trigger a deep yawn,” Newburg says, “is to fake it 6 or 7 times.” By the 5th false yawn, a real one will begin to emerge. After 10 or 12 yawns, you should feel present…relaxed…and highly alert. To quote Newburg, “not bad for something that takes less than a minute to do.”

To follow Newburg’s advice is simple: just yawn as many times a day as possible.