Northside Health Library

Yawning - excessive


Yawning involves opening the mouth involuntarily while taking a long, deep breath of air. This is usually done as a result of drowsiness or weariness. Excessive yawning is yawning that happens more often than would be expected, even if drowsiness or weariness is present.

Alternative Names

Excessive yawning


Yawning is a normal response to fatigue and drowsiness, but excessive yawning can be caused by a vasovagal reaction. This reaction is caused by the action of a nerve, called the vagus nerve, on the blood vessels. It may indicate a heart problem.

Normal yawning may happen when someone else yawns.


Home Care

Follow the treatment for the underlying cause.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

  • You experience unexplained and excessive yawning.
  • The yawning is associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

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

Medical history questions may include:

  • When did the excessive yawning begin?
  • How many times do you yawn per hour or day?
  • Is the yawning the same throughout the 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 medications?
  • Is it related to activity level?
  • Is it related to boredom?
  • What helps it?
  • Does rest help?
  • Does breathing deeply help?
  • What other symptoms are present?
  • What medications are you taking?

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include sleep studies.


Hermanowicz N. Cranial nerves IX (glossopharyngeal) and X (vagus). In: Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 13.

LeWinter MM. Pencardial diseases. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 70.

Review Date: 1/31/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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