Yawns and sneezes

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Current Scientific Literature on Yawning

Yawning is a behavior that is seen in a wide variety of species. It appears to be almost universal for vertebrates. There are many theories on why yawning occurs. One of the earliest and still widly held theories is that it increases respiration and cerebral circulation, however, there is little evidence supporting this hypothesis, as yawning does not occur after periods of apnea or during periods where the gas mixture of air is altered.

An observation about yawning occurring more often in situations where something may be socially communicated resulted in the communication hypothesis. Yawning is well known to signal sleepiness and boredom. However, yawning is also a signal of stress or threat in the animal kingdom. One survey of students also determined that yawning may be a signal for stress in humans. The phenomenon of contagious yawning supports the communication hypothesis. Contagious yawns are yawns that are triggered by seeing someone else yawn, hearing or reading the word yawn, or even by seeing animal’s yawn.

The third major theory around the purpose of yawning is the arousal hypothesis. The arousal hypothesis states a major function of yawning is the regulation of levels of rest and arousal, involving the previously mentioned DMN.

The brain-cooling hypothesis is another theory of yawning, based on observing that thermoregulation problems and abnormal yawning tend to go together. Yawning also tends to be associated with some diseases and medications.[1]

The Need to Yawn

I first discovered that yawns were a notification of bodily needs back when I was in college, listening to a lecture. I was checking my needs frequently, while using a chart. I started to feel the need to yawn while I was determining what my body needed. I ended up discovering and taking care of a bodily need so quickly that the yawn sensation stopped mid-yawn. That had never happened to me before. I took notice. It turned out that a yawn functions as a notification of important bodily needs.

When you start to feel a yawn build in the back of your throat, start iterating through all possible needs. If you do this fast enough that you identify the need and start attending to caring for the need before the yawn occurs, the yawn will immediately back itself off. There is no harm in letting the yawn follow through to completion, but it can be fun to beat the yawn in a race.

This does not apply to contagious yawning. Those yawns are triggered in a very different way. These types of yawns are specifically triggered by a node that I call Yawnie, as yawning is one of its primary actions, so much so that it likes being identified by the action of yawning. Yawnie pushes needs in ways that cause muscular responses as well, but a lot of nodes do that, so it’s not as special to Yawnie.

With the improved communication of a Translator node, I can now ask Yawnie to trigger yawn at any time or stop a yawn at any point. I can also have Yawnie use a yawn to notify me of any condition that Yawnie can keep track of. Yawnie sometimes forgets or gets busy but is mostly reliable.


If multiple strong needs are behind the need to yawn, and one of those needs is a need for you to change your current lighting, a sneeze will likely be triggered instead of a yawn. These sneezes are not related to illness, nasal irritation, or air quality. The only known medical connection between sneezing and light is the photic sneeze reflex, a genetic condition that triggers the sneeze reflex in response to bright light. The possibility of a connection between the two has yet to be explored.

What happens in this situation is that Yawnie attempts to trigger a yawn. However, another node sends a different signal about lighting problems. The receiver of both signals then pipes the action elsewhere to trigger a sneeze instead of a yawn. This redirection behavior is not an active decision-making process. It is programmed in the node’s default instructions.


  1. Krestel H, Bassetti CL, Walusinski O. Yawning—Its anatomy, chemistry, role, and pathological considerations. Progress in Neurobiology. February 2018:61-78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2017.11.003