Yawning Excessively

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Introduction

What is yawning excessively?

Yawning excessively is when the act of yawning occurs repeatedly or in close succession. When you yawn, your mouth opens and you take in a deep, long breath. Sometimes this is accompanied by a sigh. Yawning is a normal response by the body to drowsiness or fatigue. Yawning may also be triggered by observing someone else yawning.

Yawning excessively may mean taking in this deep breath more often, generally more than a few times per minute. This can occur when you are tired, weary or drowsy. Some medications, such as those used to treat depression, anxiety or allergies, can cause excessive yawning.

Yawning excessively may indicate a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, that results in a lack of restorative sleep. Yawning excessively may also be your body’s reaction to a change in daily habits or work hours, such as taking on a night-shift job or working longer hours.

Yawning excessively may also occur in the presence of a heart defect or disease. The vagus nerve acting on blood vessels can stimulate excessive yawning. This is called a vasovagal reaction and may be an indicator that you have a heart problem. If you have hypothyroidism or electrolyte imbalances, you may also feel drowsy during waking hours, which could also trigger excessive yawning.

Seek prompt medical care if you are experiencing excessive yawning, as it could be a symptom of a more serious disease or condition.

Symptoms

What other symptoms might occur with yawning excessively?

Yawning excessively may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Physical symptoms that may occur along with yawning excessively

Yawning excessively may accompany other symptoms affecting the body including:

Other symptoms that may occur along with yawning excessively

Yawning excessively may accompany symptoms related to an emotional or psychological disturbance including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, yawning excessively may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

  • Confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment

  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing

  • Dizziness or vertigo

  • Fainting, change in level of consciousness, or lethargy

  • Seizures

  • Slurred speech

  • Sudden difficulty with memory, thinking, talking, comprehension, writing or reading

Causes

What causes yawning excessively?

Yawning excessively is when the act of yawning occurs repeatedly or in close succession. Yawning is a normal response by the body to drowsiness or fatigue. Yawning excessively can occur when you are tired, weary or drowsy. Some medications, such as those used to treat depression, anxiety or allergies, can cause excessive yawning.

Yawning excessively may be related to a lack of sleep caused by a sleep disorder, a change in daily habits, or a change in work hours.

Yawning excessively may also occur in the presence of a heart defect or disease.

Physical causes of yawning excessively

Yawning excessively may be caused by physical disorders including:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Changes in sleep-wake cycle, such as shift work or travel across time zones

  • Chronic venous insufficiency (poor blood flow through the veins)

  • Electrolyte imbalance

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune disease resulting in hypothyroidism and low production of thyroid hormone)

  • Hypothyroidism (low production of thyroid hormones)

  • Medication side effects

  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties and other problems)Seizure activity (may occur before or after)

Emotional or psychological causes of yawning excessively

Yawning excessively can also be caused by an emotional or psychological disturbance including:

  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Stress

Serious or life-threatening causes of yawning excessively

In some cases, yawning excessively may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

Questions for diagnosing the cause of yawning excessively

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care provider will ask you several questions related to your yawning excessively including:

  • When did you first notice that you were yawning excessively?

  • How often are you yawning?

  • Does your excessive yawning take place at the same time each day?

  • How much sleep are you getting each day?

  • What medications are you taking?

  • Do you have any other symptoms, such as chest pain or rapid breathing?

What are the potential complications of yawning excessively?

Because yawning excessively can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care provider design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Absenteeism from work or school
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Inability to participate normally in activities
  • Poor quality of life
  • Progression of symptoms
  • Withdrawal or depression
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Dec 27
  1. Yawning - excessive. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003096.htm.
  2. Drowsiness. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003208.htm.
  3. Gupta S, Mittal S. Yawning and its physiological significance. Int J Applied Bas Med Res. 2013; 3:11-15.
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