The science behind why yawning is contagious

Whether you’re tired, bored, or see someone else do it, we all yawn. But the yawning when you’re tired scenario makes sense. What about seeing someone else yawn?

In a new study, researchers from the University of Nottingham looked at the brain to determine what makes yawning contagious.

The BBC reports it happens in the part of the brain that controls motor function.

The contagious part is actually a form of echophenomena, when you imitate someone uncontrollably.

In order to take a closer look, researchers monitored 36 participants as they watched other people yawn. Turns out it comes down to each person’s excitability.

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Sleep Tips


The scent of lavender is known to be very relaxing and can help you get to sleep at night. 

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Shut off the screens

Avoid being on your computer, phone or e-reader before going to sleep. Studies have shown the use of these items before bed can decrease the quality of your sleep.

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Melatonin supplements 

Taking sleeping pills sounds scary to many people, but melatonin supplements are like a sleep vitamin, giving you a little extra of the naturally produced hormone. 

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Stick to a schedule

Going to sleep and waking at the same time every day helps your natural sleep/wake cycle. You sleep much better when you go to bed when actually drowsy and wake naturally at the same time each day. 

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Regular exercise, even as little as 20 mins a day can help you sleep better at night. 

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Skip the afternoon nap

Taking a nap during the day can exasperate insomnia for many people. 

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When scientists increased the excitability by using external transcranial magnetic stimulation, the contagious yawning also increased.

So why is this important? After all it’s just a yawn right.

Not exactly. 

The same imitation phenomenon is also seen in people with Tourette syndrome. So this same type of stimulation could be used to help people decrease ticks.

According to the BBC, previous studies suggesting contagious yawning shows how empathetic you are may not be that concrete.

And here we thought we were all just super nice people.

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