Yawning and thermoregulation

Physiol Behav. 2008 Sep 3;95(1-2):10-6. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.05.003. Epub 2008 May 13.


We review a growing body of medical and physiological evidence indicating that yawning may be a thermoregulatory mechanism, providing compensatory cooling when other provisions fail to operate favorably. Conditions such as multiple sclerosis, migraine headaches, epilepsy, stress and anxiety, and schizophrenia have all be linked to thermoregulatory dysfunction and are often associated with instances of atypical yawning. Excessive yawning appears to be symptomatic of conditions that increase brain and/or core temperature, such as central nervous system damage, sleep deprivation and specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Yawning is also associated with drowsiness, and subjective ratings of sleepiness are correlated with increases in body temperature. This view of yawning has widespread application for the basic physiological understanding of thermoregulation as well as for the improved diagnosis and treatment of diseases associated with abnormal thermoregulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Yawning / physiology*