Excessive Yawning: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment (2024)

Yawning, the involuntary act of opening your mouth, taking a deep breath, and exhaling, is the body's natural response to being tired or bored. But yawning that happens excessively (or more often than usual) could indicate an underlying health issue.

This article discusses the potential causes behind yawning more than usual.

Excessive Yawning: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment (1)

Symptoms of Excessive Yawning

It’s common to yawn several times a day, typically when you wake up and head to bed. Yawning is the body’s response to feeling sleepy or even bored. It can also be prompted involuntarily when you witness other people yawn, often referred to as “contagious” yawning.

Though there’s no set number of yawns per day, some researchers suggest routinely yawning more than three times within 15 minutes (when there is no apparent cause like a lack of sleep or boredom) would be considered excessive.

Excessive yawning includes yawning when you’re not tired, you’re not bored, and you’re not seeing, hearing, or sensing someone else yawn.

Why We Yawn?

Experts don't fully understand why humans yawn—outside of the theories that it usually happens when we're tired or bored. It may be linked to social cues and certain bodily functions like brain temperature regulation. It's considered to be an unconscious reflex, which means it's an automatic body movement or response.

Causes of Excessive Yawning

The most common causes of excessive yawning include sleep disorders, medication side effects, and certain health conditions.

Sleep Disorders

Not getting enough sleep or sleep deprivation can cause excessive yawning. It's a good idea to check with a healthcare provider if you're constantly feeling fatigued or sleepy during the day because you may not realize you have a sleep disorder.

Medication Side Effects

Certain types of medications can cause excessive yawning. This is linked to how some drugs interact with chemicals in the brain, prompting you to feel tired or yawn more than usual. It may also be the result of a medication lowering your breathing rate.

Health Conditions

Neurological conditions that affect the brain (or vagus nerve), such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy, may prompt excessive yawning, likely due to how they affect the body's temperature regulation. Additionally, anxiety can affect the respiratory system, heart, and energy levels, leading to yawning or shortness of breath. More rarely, excessive yawning can be a symptom of a brain tumor, asthma, heart issues, or stroke.

What Medications Can Cause Excessive Yawning?

Several different types of drugs are linked to yawning more than usual. They include:

  • Antidepressants like Prozac (fluoxetine) or Celexa (citalopram)
  • Opioids
  • Dopamine agonists (drugs to treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease or restless legs syndrome)
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Induction agents (drugs used for anesthesia or sedation)
  • Androgens like testosterone
  • Oxytocin

Yawning isn’t considered a serious adverse reaction, so it’s not usually listed as a side effect in the medication’s drug summary. This is why it’s important to let a healthcare provider know if you believe any medications may trigger excessive yawning.

How to Treat Excessive Yawning

Treatment for excessive yawning will depend on the cause behind it. Your healthcare provider may recommend the following:

  • Adopting healthy sleep habits (if the yawning is due to a lack of sleep)
  • Making changes to prescription medications (if the yawning is the result of a medication you're taking)
  • Prescribing medication (if the yawning is due to an underlying health issue or a sleep disorder
  • Using breathing exercises or a breathing device (if the yawning is due to anxiety or asthma)

It's important to consult a healthcare provider first before making any changes to your prescription medication routine.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Yawning?

Though there aren't any specific tests to diagnose excessive yawning, some diagnostic tools are available for healthcare providers to help uncover why you're yawning more than usual.

To determine what may be causing the excessive yawning, your healthcare provider may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Polysomnogram: Also known as an overnight sleep study, this test can help diagnose potential sleep disorders by monitoring your heart rate, brain waves, breathing, and body movements.
  • Electroencephalogram (or EEG): This non-invasive test picks up on brain waves and records electrical activity in the brain. It can help diagnose epilepsy, sleep disorders, and brain injuries.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (or MRI): Using radio waves to produce images, an MRI can give a detailed view of your body. You may undergo this if there is suspicion of a tumor or mass in the brain.
  • Sleep diary: Though this isn't a medical test, it's a tool that helps healthcare providers recognize sleep cycle patterns and potentially diagnose a sleep disorder. It involves the patient tracking several factors related to their sleep and wake routine.

Other tests or specialist visits may be recommended, too, if the results are inconclusive.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

The act of yawning is a normal reflex and usually isn't a medical emergency. But you should call your healthcare provider if you notice:

  • Unexplained yawning
  • Excessive yawning
  • Extreme sleepiness during the day that interferes with your daily routine

It's a good idea to keep track of and share any other symptoms you notice besides excessive yawning, such as fatigue or dizziness.


Yawning when you're sleepy or bored is common. Constantly yawning without any of those triggers may signify an underlying health concern. Excessive yawning can result from a sleep disorder, the use of certain medications, and (less commonly) the symptom of a neurological or other condition. Check with a healthcare provider if you notice you're yawning more than usual.

A Word From Verywell

Though several causes can trigger excessive yawning, it's natural to think about how much sleep you get. Underlying causes could be twofold, as health conditions like anxiety often affect our sleep, which could prompt yawning. It's important to note and monitor symptoms (like excessive yawning) that are unusual for you and check with a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why am I yawning so much?

    Several reasons for yawning more than usual include sleep issues, medication side effects, and underlying conditions. Check with a healthcare provider if you notice you're yawning when you're not tired or bored.

  • Does anxiety cause excessive yawning?

    It can. Because anxiety affects the respiratory system, energy levels, and the heart, anxiety may cause symptoms like feeling breathless and yawning more.

    Learn More:What Is an Anxiety Disorder?

  • What medications make you yawn?

    Several different drug classes can cause you to yawn more than usual. These include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, opioids, dopamine agonists, and medications used in anesthesia.

    Learn More:Can Medication Cause Sleep Apnea?

11 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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  8. Béné J, Bastides M, Auffret M, Gautier S. Serotonin and yawning: A possible adverse drug reaction during antidepressant therapy. Presse Med. 2014;43(10 Pt 1):1135-6. doi:10.1016/j.lpm.2013.12.018

  9. Patatanian E, Williams NT. Drug-induced yawning--a review. Ann Pharmacother. 2011 Oct;45(10):1297-301. doi: 10.1345/aph.1Q255

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Excessive Yawning: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment (2)

By Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.

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