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I have always had a problem with yawning during long meetings (>1 hour) and I am interested in the techniques that people have used to keep themselves from yawning.

I always start to yawn after about an hour into the meeting despite having gotten a good night's sleep and drinking a lot of coffee (or 5-hour Energy shots). I believe the primary reason I yawn may be that I find that the subject matter being discussed is boring and/or it does not pertain to me.

I am also thinking that my yawning problem could be caused instead by my brain not getting enough oxygen since I'm sitting still for a long time and this causes my blood pressure to drop. If this is the case, what techniques can be used to raise my blood pressure and get more oxygen to my brain?

So, what are some techniques that people use to keep from yawning during a long meeting?

  • 3
    Not sure if you can stop yourself, but have you tried simply covering your mouth? – sf02 Jun 28 at 13:19
  • @sf02, yes, but after you do this like 20 times people start to notice, especially the boss. – user106259 Jun 28 at 13:26
  • 9
    Have you tried not being in these meetings? – Borgh Jun 28 at 13:31
  • 4
    Express to your boss that meetings right after lunch are just not a good idea! – Kaizerwolf Jun 28 at 14:00
  • 1
    This is a great question with some very practical answers! – Jay Jun 30 at 16:47
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You can stop yawning through breathing in through your nose and out through the mouth. Breathing in through your nose cools blood vessels in your head that help stop you from yawning.

Other advice would be to find techniques to feel more awake, such as getting out of bed without hitting snooze, drinking plenty water throughout the day, do exercise 3-4 times a week and healthy dieting.

On top of these points, try being more engaged in the meetings, take part where possible. Your brain will naturally fall asleep when bored and not focusing.

  • 14
    Tried the breathing technique to test its effectiveness and immediately yawned twice. – mustaccio Jun 28 at 15:52
  • @mustaccio Well it's a scientific fact. It has been proven to lessen the amount of times someone yawns throughout a day. – Twyxz Jul 1 at 6:21
  • Also for the last point, you may also choose to go only to meetings where there is a real reason for you to be there. Meetings with unnecessary people tends to brings qui some yawning – Walfrat Jul 3 at 6:57
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I did some research on this during my bachelor's. It's been a while (2012), so I'll see if I can source this, but no promises. Yawning correlates with the time of day, and how long you have been sedentary. Exercise situationally surpresses yawning. Yawning is contagious, and this effect correlates with group cohesion: You are more likely to yawn in a group you feel or want to be part of.

Hypothetical Causes of Yawning

  • Body is sedentary, blood oxygenation decreases, brain tries to be active and needs some more O2.
    • Yawning is a small physical exertion that increases heart-rate and blood-flow.
    • Yawning stimulates blood-flow by straining muscles that manipulate the carotid artery
    • Yawning restores blood oxygenation.
  • Sedentary body results in lower heart rate and thus lower flow rate. Brain gets hot, yawning cools it down.
    • Through increased airflow.
    • Through increased blood-flow due to vasoconstriction.
  • Room has little ventilation, yawning not triggered by decreased O2, but by increased CO2. You're responding to a blood-level CO2 change, that is a consequence of environmental CO2.
  • Brain is under-stimulated, this is self-stimulating behavior.

Although this specific article finds evidence supporting the thermoregulation hypothesis, there is no scientific consensus.

Ways to keep from yawning

First things first, if you need to yawn, do it. You may be able to suppress it for a while, but you're better off preventing the second yawn entirely. Based on the potential causes for yawning, I would suggest:

Immediate fixes:

  • Correct your posture and breathing. Sit up straight, shoulders back. Good posture and a couple of intentional big breaths through your nose help restore your blood oxygenation.
  • Stretch out, change posture, start gently tapping your leg - get moving.
  • Make sure you are not too warm, take off your jacket and drink cold water.
  • Play buzzword bingo, mind-map someone's argumentation, or otherwise stave off boredom. Get involved.

Prevention:

  • Reduce your overall coffee intake to increase your caffeine sensitivity, so you can leverage that boost when you need it.
  • Prevent dehydration. Dehydration reduces your blood volume, pressure and flow. Your blood oxygenation is less responsive. You lose up to a litre (quarter gallon) of water overnight (60% through urine, 40% sweat). Are you replenishing that? Coffee is a diuretic: it dehydrates and impedes rehydration. An empty stomach does not help water retention.

  • Manage your sugar intake. High blood sugar makes you pee more, low blood sugar does not help concentration. (Dehydration increases blood sugar through reduced blood volume!)

Environmental fixes:

  • Increase airflow, lower temperature. Open up a window, turn up the aircon.
  • Call for a break; get up, move around and grab a drink of cold water.
  • Improve the efficiency of your meetings.
  • those are excellent suggestions. I will try doing some of them during my next meeting. I think its interesting that you recommend reducing my overall coffee intake to increase my caffeine sensitivity, because I have never heard of that suggestion before. – user106259 Jun 29 at 13:55
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    Caffeine is a CNS stimulant. It (amongst other effects) blocks adenosine (neurotransmitter) from activating the adenosine receptors, making you less drowsy. Your body seeks homeostasis and will quickly (within weeks) adapt to the change to a neurotransmitter's base level, for instance by increasing or decreasing the number of receptors for that neurotransmitter. You build tolerance and dependence. If you get headaches when you don't drink coffee, you are dependent. In that case you'll likely also have difficulty feeling alert without coffee. – SambalMinion Jun 29 at 14:11
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    Tolerance is harder to notice. I used to drink 5-8 cups a day and would not notice the effect of an extra cup. Now I drink about two cups a day. When I need an extra boost for a late-afternoon meeting, an extra cup definitely makes a difference. But if I suddenly drink five, I'll get the shakes. – SambalMinion Jun 29 at 14:22
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If you're not strictly needed at these meetings, then don't go to the meetings anymore (get yourself taken off the invite list).

If you are supposed to be in the meeting, then do your best to pay attention to what's being said. Being bored and yawning means that you're missing something that might well be important. Yawning in a meeting (or badly repressing a yawn) can be taken as impolite to the people who are spending energy in doing the talking.

It's easy enough to find ways of repressing the yawns, but you need to address the core reason for them.

  • 1
    also: engage in setting the agenda before the meeting – aaaaaa Jun 28 at 23:04
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I've found that clenching my jaw just enough to prevent the jaw from moving into a yawn works well. I've also found ways to prevent the rest of my face from showing strains of yawning. You can also put you hand on your face in a "thinking" posture to help hide your intentions.

Make sure your mouth stays closed while doing this, and you'll muffle any sound you inadvertently make. (Incidentally, this is a good way to prevent burps. Along with opening your throat wider and letting the gasses out your nose, you can make what was going to be a belch much less noticeable.)

Also, if you inhale deeply and quickly through the nose, it helps to stifle the yawn.

Drinking water will also often take your mind off the meeting enough, get you moving just enough, and maybe a few other things to help prevent yawning. Just don't yawn while trying to drink. It will likely make a mess, cause you to choke, interrupt the meeting even more, and give your co-workers something to laugh at you about. "Remember when HRIATEXP almost drown in that meeting? That was funny."

And this leads to what I'm going to call my last suggestion, think of something amusing. You may need to stifle some laughs or try not to think of anything too funny, but the mental exercise will take your mind off the meeting. Also, the possible smiling will change the way your jaw reacts to the impulse of yawning. You can still yawn while smiling, but it can help mask your jaw clenching.

Just thinking about this question has caused me to try to yawn multiple times, and I've used all these techniques just in writing this answer. They may sound silly or impossible, but I've used them for many years.

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It depends on the situation, but I would sometimes work on something else to keep from being bored. If you have a laptop that you can bring to the meeting, it is easy. No computer? Use a notebook, outline the solution to a problem, make a to-do list, etc.

Just don't become so immersed in your work that you appear to be ignoring the meeting. Take time to look up at the speaker occasionally. If you think that you might be criticized for working on something else, pretend like you are taking notes.

In my work environment, managers were usually pleased when someone would multitask. They realized that full attention was not required at all meetings.

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This happens to me as well. I believe it is very common for many other people especially when meetings are bore and they make it is mandatory for you to attend one. In this case I generally take a break (everyone has right to take break for nature's call), go washroom, wash your face fully for two-three times, drink water and come back.

-1

You may have ADD/ADHD. I used to yawn several times an hour after being awake for only two hours. Napping helped but too many hours needed. I was diagnosed with ADHD, got the right meds (it can take a few tries). I no longer yawn, far more present, and able to take on many more tasks.

  • I just read up on ADHD. There are a lot of things I didn't know about it. I would of course have to first be properly diagnosed by a mental health professional before I can say whether or not I suffer from it. – user106259 Jul 2 at 0:55
  • @HRIATEXP Well, technically no. You could score marginal on whatever test they give you but if it results in medication and it's effective what should one conclude?... that you only have it marginally or that it's a big deal? – Randy Zeitman Jul 2 at 1:01
  • @ Randy Zeitman, I see your point. Well, I can't say exactly when I will do it, but at some point in the future I will need to take one of these ADHD tests and then find out what they recommend that I do. – user106259 Jul 2 at 1:08
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    @HRIATEXP Pretend you have it and you need to verify you have it because if you do and you get good meds you'll wonder why you wasted whatever time you may waste. I just got diagnosed two years ago ... age 54. I've been yawning since I was 13. – Randy Zeitman Jul 2 at 1:28

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