Migraine and Yawning

Headache. 2018 Feb;58(2):210-216. doi: 10.1111/head.13195. Epub 2017 Sep 27.


Background: Yawning is considered to be a symptom that reflects dopaminergic activity, although its pathophysiological mechanism is not yet fully understood. Interestingly, repetitive yawning is seen in some patients during migraine attacks. The aim of this cross-sectional study is to investigate the frequency of yawning during migraine attacks and its association with different characteristics of migraine.

Methods: Patients with migraine with or without aura were evaluated using questionnaires and diaries to determine the characteristics of headache and accompanying symptoms. Repetitive yawning in the premonitory phase and/or during headache were determined.

Results: Three hundred and thirty-nine patients were included in the study. One hundred and fifty-four patients reported repetitive yawning (45.4%) during migraine attacks. Repetitive yawning was reported in the 11.2% of the patients in the premonitory phase, 24.2% during headaches, and 10% both in the premonitory phase and during headaches. Migraine with aura (46.8 vs 31.9%; P = .005), accompanying nausea (89.6 vs 75.1%; P = .001), vomiting (48.7 vs 37.8%; P = .044), osmophobia (66.7 vs 52.3%; P = .024), and cutaneous allodynia (58.2 vs 46%; P = .032) were more common in patients with yawning than without. Other dopaminergic-hypothalamic premonitory symptoms (41.6 vs 26.5%; P = .003), especially sleepiness (17.5 vs 5.9%; P = .001), irritability/anxiety (21.4% vs 11.4%; P = .019), nausea/vomiting (10.4 vs 4.3%; P = .03), and changes in appetite (18.2 vs 9.7%; P = .024), were also more frequent in patients with yawning than without. After being adjusted for all other relevant covariates, the odds of repetitive yawning were increased by the presence of nausea (OR 2.88; 95% CI 1.453-5.726; P = .002) and migraine with aura (OR 1.66; 95% CI 1.035-2.671; P = .036).

Conclusions: Our results demonstrated that yawning is a common self-reported symptom leading or accompanying migraine attacks and is associated with aura, nausea and/or vomiting, osmophobia, and cutaneous allodynia in patients with migraine. Although yawning is a rather frequently seen behavior, it is a unique and reliable symptom in patients with migraine that may offer an opportunity for early treatment of migraine attacks.

Keywords: dopamine; hypothalamus; migraine; yawning.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine with Aura* / diagnosis
  • Migraine with Aura* / epidemiology
  • Migraine with Aura* / physiopathology
  • Migraine without Aura* / diagnosis
  • Migraine without Aura* / epidemiology
  • Migraine without Aura* / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Yawning*