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Yawning - excessive

Definition

Yawning involves opening the mouth involuntarily while taking a long, deep breath of air. This is most often done when you are tired or sleepy. Excessive yawning that happens more often than expected, even if drowsiness or weariness is present is considered excessive yawning.

Alternative Names

Excessive yawning

Causes

Causes may include:

  • Drowsiness or weariness
  • Disorders associated with excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Vasovagal reaction (stimulation of a nerve called the vagus nerve), caused by heart attack or aortic dissection
  • Brain problems such as tumor, stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis
  • Certain medicines (rare)
  • Problem with the body's temperature control (rare)

Home Care

Follow the treatment for the underlying cause.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You have unexplained and excessive yawning.
  • The yawning is associated with being very sleepy in the daytime.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will get your medical history and do a physical exam.

You may be asked questions such as:

  • When did the excessive yawning begin?
  • How many times do you yawn per hour or day?
  • Is it worse in the morning, after lunch, or during exercise?
  • Is it worse in certain areas or certain rooms?
  • Does yawning interfere with normal activities?
  • Is the increased yawning related to the amount of sleep you get?
  • Is it related to use of medicines?
  • Is it related to activity level or boredom?
  • Do things such as rest or breathing deeply help?
  • What other symptoms are present?

You may need tests to look for medical problems that are causing the yawning.

Your provider will recommend treatment, if needed based on the results of your exam and tests.

References

Chokroverty S, Avidan AY. Sleep and its disorders. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 68.

Gupta S, Mittal S. Yawning and its physiological significance. International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research. 2013;3(1):11-15. PMID: 23776833 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23776833.

Rucker JC. Cranial neuropathies. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 70.

Review Date:1/31/2015
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, medical director and director of didactic curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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