Yawn For Brain Fitness! No, Really!

January 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm 1 comment

Yawning Puppy Brain!  Image by Bjearwike on Stock.Xchng Yawning: it’s considered rude, a sign of boredom, disinterest, laziness and exhaustion.

And it just might be really good for the brain, at least according to Andrew Newberg, the director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania.

In an essay published last November, Newberg explains that yawning isn’t just a response to being tired or disinterested, but an attempt by the brain to be more alert and focused.  Yawning also reduces stress, improves self-awareness, and, curiously, ties strongly into social connections.

Intrigued? Me too!

Turns out that yawning stimulates parts of the brain that deal with social awareness and empathy, which is why yawns are contagious.  (In fact, yawns are so contagious and responsive to suggestion that I bet you’ll be yawning by the time you finish reading this post! ) One of the affected areas of the brain is the precuneus, which is believed to be central to our self awareness, ability to reflect, and retrieving our memories.

According to Newberg’s article, it’s also a part of the brain strongly affected by cognitive declines, which suggests that yawning might just exercise it enough to help keep our memories fit and healthy.

How else might yawning benefit brain fitness?

It actually touches on several elements of our 7 keys:

  • It’s relaxing, and reduces the effects of stress and anxiety, which take a huge toll on the health of our brain, our memories and general cognitive function.
  • Yawning helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles; sleep deprivation is very harmful for the brain.
  • It regulates the temperature and metabolism of the brain, increases blood flow, and stimulates a cocktail of bio-chemicals that improve mood, social connection, and empathy.
  • And although Newberg doesn’t say so directly, I have to wonder if the social connection in yawning might be related to the importance of social interaction on brain health.  Social activities are known to be a factor in preventing/minimizing the effects of age-related cognitive decline and disease.

So Go Ahead.
Yawn.

Now do it again.

And one more time!.

If you don’t feel like yawning, fake it  a few times and let the auto-response take over.   Pretty soon you’ll be yawning away naturally, and almost certainly feeling the positive effects.

Newberg suggests we yawn often, whether waking up or falling asleep, trying to focus or relax.  For more of his suggestions and futher information, check out Dr. Newberg’s essay in the Penn Gazette:

Yawn: It’s one of the best things you can do for your brain

Entry filed under: 7 keys. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Claudia  |  January 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I always knew that some thing that felt as good as yawning had to have benefits. As a kid i was told not to yawn but did it any way.

    Reply

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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