For many, long weekends are all about rest & relaxation – and from the abundance of yawns I’ve been seeing at work over the last few days, it appears that many could USE some ‘r and r’. And if you’re like me, when you see someone else yawn, you feel the urge to yawn….right? But is the classic belief that yawns are actually contagious true?
It turns out………yes.
Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert (cool job, bro) explains a little bit about yawns; a yawn is a reflex that triggers the inhaling and exhaling of breath, sending a message to the brain that something in the body needs to change. So….can that be passed on to others? Yup, and we’re getting to that.
Kansagra has a theory about WHY we yawn, saying, “When we are relaxed, we are not breathing as deeply, and a yawn allows us to expand our lungs and keep them functioning at their optimum.” He adds that babies and children under five do not ‘catch’ yawns, and it’s because a young child’s brain isn’t developed enough…they develop better social understanding and empathy by age five.
Thus, it turns out that you will likely yawn when you do indeed see another human (or animal, for that matter) yawn, primarily out of empathy. And yes, it can even be caused by seeing a video of someone else yawning. According to Kansagra, “We are more likely to mimic the yawns of others when we know them well, a result that has been shown even in chimpanzees.”
There you have it. Big yawn? Pass it on! ~ Jason