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Excessive Yawning

Q: I have a question which might sound silly.  I don't want to go to the doctor about it because it sounds ridiculous.  Have you ever known of anyone yawning excessively?  I have for the last couple weeks been yawning all the time to get a deep breath and if I don't I feel like I'm not getting a good deep breath while I am breathing.  I don't feel sick and I don't have shortness of breath.  I have been still been exercising and feel fine but I am constantly trying to get a deep breath like yawning.  Is this something I should be concerned about or not? 

Dr. Donnica:
Rule number one in medicine: The only "silly" thing about a medical question is being too shy to ask!  In this case, while "excessive yawning" may sound silly, it is a potentially serious condition.  Usually, it means you are drowsy or not getting sufficient sleep.  This can also be a side effect of certain medications, most notably anti-depressants in the SSRI class (e.g. Prozac). 

Yawning itself is a normal response to fatigue or drowsiness, but excessive yawning, especially as you described it as trying to get a deep breath, may be caused by a vasovagal reaction and can even indicate an underlying heart problem.  It is time to call your doctor and get a check-up.  In the meantime, keep a log of how often you yawn per hour or per day, how much sleep you get, what medications you may be taking (including cough/cold medications and herbal preparations), what makes it better or worse, and whether it interferes with any activities.  I recommend stopping your exercise routine until you have your check-up.

Created: 11/23/2002  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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