Yawning excessively may occur due to various reasons, such as fatigue or medications. It may also indicate an underlying issue, like a sleep disorder.
Yawning is an involuntary action of opening the mouth, breathing in air, and exhaling it. The action occurs in animals and people alike and can occur even in developing fetuses.
Despite its commonality, yawning isn’t well understood in the scientific community. Scientific speculation suggests that yawning may be a form of social signaling, such as showing boredom or being tired, but it may have additional uses still not understood.
You may yawn when:
- you see someone else do it
- upon waking up
- you want to pop your ears
You may also find you yawn when you’re bored either at work, school, or when completing a tedious task.
If you find yourself yawning excessively, it may mean something bigger is going on.
Excessive yawning doesn’t have an exact definition or quantitative number of times you need to yawn to consider it excessive.
You may be yawning excessively when you find yourself doing it frequently throughout the day, yawn several times during the course of an hour or short period of time, or otherwise notice an uptick in how often you catch yourself yawning.
Though yawning isn’t a health condition that can cause additional symptoms, you may have an underlying condition causing your yawning that may also cause additional symptoms.
For example, if you have sleep apnea, you
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- trouble focusing on tasks
- mood changes
- changes in sex drive
- dry mouth
- waking up often during the night to urinate
If you have other underlying conditions, they may cause additional symptoms. You may want to consider talking with a doctor if you notice unusual symptoms along with yawning as this may indicate the presence of a bigger issue.
Excessive yawning has several potential causes. In some cases, yawning may be a sign of a potentially serious underlying condition that may require medical help.
Other common causes of excessive yawning can include:
- excessive tiredness or fatigue
- use of certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- sleep deprivation — though excessive yawning
may be a causeof the disorder, not a symptom
- sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea
Some less common, but potentially serious causes, may include:
- sign of a heart attack
- neurological disorder, such as
multiple sclerosis (MS)
- brain tumor (although it can be
- fatigue associated with
If you experience excessive yawning — with or without additional symptoms — you may want to seek support from a medical professional.
During a visit, a doctor will likely perform a physical examination and review your sleep habits, medications, and any known underlying conditions.
If they rule out sleep issues, they may look for other possible causes involving the brain, central nervous system, or other underlying conditions. For example, they may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to check the structures of the brain and spinal cord.
An MRI can help doctors
- abnormalities in the liver
- issues with the spinal cord or brain, such as tumors
- issues with the heart
If they suspect other issues, a doctor may order a test known as an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG can help diagnose issues
- sleep issues
- brain injuries
Testing should help a doctor determine what may be an underlying cause of excessive yawning and possible other symptoms.
Treatment will vary based on what’s causing you to yawn excessively.
They may review your medications and recommend stopping certain medications that may be causing the symptom. They’ll likely then prescribe a different medication if it’s needed for another health condition.
If a more serious underlying medical condition may be causing the symptom, a doctor will take steps to address that issue. This may include medications, therapies, surgery, or other treatment methods.
If sleep issues are causing you to experience excessive yawning, you may be able to improve your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to how well you set yourself up for a good night’s sleep.
Some tips to improve sleep hygiene
- keep the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
- go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- avoid caffeine, large meals, and exercise before bedtime
- exercise regularly during the day
- avoid alcohol close to bed
- remove electronic devices from the bedroom
Excessive yawning may be due to an underlying medical condition, such as sleep issues, stress, or others. Less often, it may be a sign of a more serious medical condition, such as MS or liver issues.
If you find you yawn excessively, you may want to talk with a doctor. A primary care physician may be able to help you determine the underlying cause of the symptom.
When seeking medical advice, you may find it helpful to keep a record of your symptoms. Things to keep in mind include:
- other symptoms you’re experiencing
- quality of sleep
- when it started
- medications you take
These can help a doctor rule out and find a possible cause for the excessive yawning.