Having just returned from yet another titillating mini-vacation of leaf peeping, kayaking, moose chasing, cooking over the open fire and the Kibbie Mountain Wind Project (which you can read about here) in Eustis, Maine, I thought I’d write about something else that greatly interested me-yawning.
I never thought much about yawning before, but it seems yawns are in fact catchy. After about three hours of driving, my co-pilot started to yawn. She tried to cover it up but she just couldn’t stop herself from yawning. Then came another, and another. Now, I pride myself on my entertainment skills when on a long drive, but I couldn’t help but accuse her of finding my titillating descriptions of different Caribbean Islands…well, boring. She denied it of course, because we all know I may be a lot of things, but boring isn’t high on the list. I faked a close call with a logging truck just to prove it.
Then, after watching her gape and listening to her suck wind a few times, I myself began to yawn, for no apparent reason. I guess that’s what people call “catching a yawn”. For the next hour or so, we yawned our way to Eustis.
So, just why do we yawn? The two obvious reasons are boredom and fatigue, but there are some interesting theories about why we yawn. The “Evolution Theory” seems to infer that yawning was a sign of ancestral intimidation by showing teeth. This theory also claims that yawning signals a change of activity, although I don’t but that one. I find myself yawning during absolutely no activity.
The “Physiological Theory” is one that suggests we yawn to bring more oxygen into our bodies while ridding ourselves of carbon dioxide. Well, that’s just ducky but it still doesn’t explain why we do this, not to mention some guy named Robert Provine tested this theory and found that more oxygen and less carbon dioxide doesn’t prevent yawning.
The “Blood Flow Theory” emerged from a study of 44 students. Half of those told to breathe through their mouths yawned, while none who breathed through their noses did
They held cold packs on their foreheads which seemed to prevent “catching a yawn” from the others. I have no idea of what all this has to do with blood flow, but it sure sounds like a typical waste of my taxes.
Then there are the “Chemical Theory” and the “Surface Distribution” which (yawn) are too boring to even write about. A few fun facts about yawning might be (yawn) enough to prevent this uncontrollable urge I have to yawn. Blind people yawn after hearing someone else yawn. Dogs yawn to stay calm. Chimpanzees “catch” yawns from each other and they are the only animals other than humans that do. The average yawn lasts about six seconds, and unborn fetuses as young as eleven weeks yawn.
With all the studies on yawning that have been done, one thing is certain. I can’t stop yawning while I’m writing this, anymore than you can stop yawning while reading it.