You Are Getting Very Sleepy

Note: The annual Autism Positivity flashblog is being held again this April 30th. Visit the website to find out how you can participate.

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For the past few weeks I’ve been getting ready to move. That’s meant making lots of phone calls to change over utilities and insurance and such. And packing. Lots of packing. Of course packing also means deciding what to keep and what to toss and what to donate, plus a good amount of organizing and reorganizing. Because, you know, it’s important that my entire file cabinet go into the box in the best possible order, with not a single scrap of unnecessary paper cluttering up my system.

I’m happy to say that nearly everything on my list is done. Which is good, because the moving truck arrives in less than forty-eight hours. I’d also like to say it all got done smoothly and according to plan, but that would be a lie.

You see, I have this thing that happens when an anxiety-inducing event is imminent: I suddenly feel very very sleepy. I don’t just mean that I feel a little tired–I mean I feel 2 AM tired.

Mostly it happens before social events. The Scientist will be busily showering and shaving and choosing an outfit and I’ll be calculating down to the minute how late I can start getting ready.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take me long to make myself presentable. That means I can safely put off getting ready until the last ten minutes before we need to get out the door. Any sooner and I’ll be all ready to go while simultaneously wanting to lie down on the couch  and take a quick nap.

The strange thing is, even when it’s happening, I know the tired feeling is an illusion. It’s my brain trying to get my body to play enabler, to somehow avoid the anxiety-inducing event. Some people get butterflies in their stomach or a need to pace. I get a sudden urge to hibernate in a blanket fort for a week or two.

sleepy2

So in addition to all of the usual chaos of getting ready to move, I’ve been trying to outsmart the sleepy feeling. Not surprisingly, actually sleeping doesn’t work. In most cases, it isn’t even an option because the thing I need to do is both imminent and time sensitive. But even with most of the moving tasks, where I could grab a nap and then do them later, there is no actual sleeping to be had. Because if I lie down, all I’m thinking about is the task I should be doing. So then I’m both sleepy and annoyed with myself for procrastinating.

It helps a bit to think of the feeling as something other than sleepy–to call what it really is, which is some sort of defensive withdrawal. When I look at it that way, I understand intellectually that I don’t need or want to sleep. I also know from experience that the best “cure” is to do the anxiety-producing thing. Often, I simply need to get started and the feeling clears.

To get the stuff on my moving list done, I used a lot of the same tricks I use to manage my executive function deficits: lists, rewards, schedules, telling myself that I just have to call one insurance company instead of all three or pack up a box of clothes, which is easy, rather a box of dishes, which is harder. Once I get on the phone or haul out the packing materials and tape and boxes, it’s much easier to just keep going. It’s the getting started–getting past that initial wall of do not want–that’s the real trick.

Addendum

When I told The Scientist that I planned to write about this topic, he suggested that I also write about, “the way you yawn when you’re bored during a conversation.” My yawning habit (for lack of a better description) has long been a source of annoyance for both of us. The Scientist assumed I was bored but not telling him; I was flummoxed whenever he brought it up because I usually wasn’t  feeling bored when it happened.

yawn

Coincidentally, a New Yorker article about the science of yawning popped up on my Tumblr dashboard within hours of the The Scientist’s suggestion. Buried beneath a lot of other more complicated theories is the suggestion that in addition to yawning when we’re bored, tired or hungry, we sometimes yawn when we’re anxious. That makes sense to me. Yawning definitely helps me clear my head and it gives my nervous system a poke, both of which help me stay focused. Coincidentally, that’s a pretty accurate description of the effects of stimming too.

These days I mostly catch myself before I yawn during important conversations. When that familiar feeling creeps up, I get up to pace or intentionally engage in a stim that has the same effect as yawning. But it was interesting to learn that there are all sorts of theories about yawning and they aren’t all centered around boredom or fatigue.

Addendum to the Addendum

The article I linked to above also mentions that autistic people are less likely to be contagious yawners. I’m curious whether autistic readers think this is true? I’m very susceptible to contagious yawning, to the point that I yawn when my dog yawns. In fact, I’ve been yawning pretty much constantly while researching, writing and proofreading the last two sections of this post.

 

81 comments

  1. EA

    I wonder if you have any unidentified food allergies / sensitivities and / or GI issues? I will admit that this is my skeleton-key response, thinking about digestive function, but I used to experience what you describe, on a regular basis, and while you might logically respond, “But it’s not after I eat, it’s when I’m stressed,” my thought would be that stress sets off extra hormones and such that could aggravate an underlying / reinforce an underlying issue. In any case, I have been on (and have written about) a long road of personal detective work, and while I hope to eat widely again after rehabbing my system, giving up wheat, dairy, and most sugar (temporarily, I hope, at least in the first two cases) was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my body. I would love to suggest, “Maybe see a nutritionist / naturopath / homeopath / traditional Chinese medicine practitioner?” But even amongst those professions, there are some who are better than others, so getting the right person could make all the difference.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Interesting hypothesis. Although it’s a very specific type of stress that sets it off, so I don’t know. I do know that I come down hard after eating anything high in sugar but that’s a consistent reaction regardless of the circumstances and cutting back on the sugar on my diet has done wonders for my mood stability.

  2. ischemgeek

    Another possible reason for yawning that is kind of strange: Yawning is also a symptom of asthma. I used to get in trouble so often as a kid because I’d get the yawns a few days before a bad flareup. And small classes in uni, I’d get in trouble when I was having bad asthma days (“Are we boring you?” is a question I hate to hear because, uh, no but you’re not going to believe that no matter what I say about it). Nobody ever connected it to my asthma until when I was an adult and looking up warning symptoms I saw “unusual or excessive yawning, especially when not tired or bored” on a list and I was just like, Holy crap that’s it! about it. One of those immediate aha moments.

    It’s not a well-known asthma symptom, but it is a symptom. And actually is pretty much the only reason I yawn unless I’ve been up for >20 hours straight.

    In a lot of animals, yawning is just a sign of unspecified stress, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just a socially-stigmatized sign of stress in people, too.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Good to know! I can see how it would be a response to the body needing a sudden boost in oxygen. I had asthma as a kid but was pronounced asthma-free by an anesthesiologist a couple of years ago prior to surgery. Then had an asthma attack a year later.

      Do you think it’s possible to have asthma attacks as a result of being sensory overloaded plus some allergy-related stuff? Because the four asthma attacks I’ve had as an adult have all been (looking back now) several hours post-severe sensory overload plus exposure to mild allergens (though not enough exposure to provoke a physical reaction at the time). For example, once I went to a neighbor’s party and felt super overloaded by the time we left. They also had a dog and cat, which I’m mildly allergic to in spite of eight years of allergy shots. I went straight to bed and woke up a few hours later feeling like my lungs were wrapped in a plastic bag. It was terrifying after so many years of being “ashtma free” and not having an inhaler. And that will happen maybe once five years but nothing in between.

      Oh man, now I feel like you’re the doctor at the cocktail party and I can’t shut up. :-)

      • ischemgeek

        It’s fine. I’m not a doc, but I like talking about asthma, so I don’t mind. :)

        I’d suggest maybe talking to a doctor about the possibility you might be a mild intermittent asthmatic – mild intermittent asthmatics can go months or even years between episodes, but when they do have flares, their flares can be mild or be quite severe. Your diagnosed severity level refers to the amount of medicine you need to control your breathing and/or the severity of your daily symptoms (not flares) when you’re completely untreated. Mild asthmatics can and do have severe and even life-threatening attacks sometimes. Anyway, mild asthma sounds to me like it would fit a lot more with what you describe than being “asthma free.” Plus, anesthesiologists aren’t really asthma experts, so the doc may have mistaken very mild intermittent asthma for no asthma. When you’re not having a flare, mild intermittent asthma looks exactly like normal breathing.

        As for the stress thing, stress is a common trigger for many asthmatic people. Another thing to consider is that hyperventilation can cause bronchospasm – it’s thought that’s the mechanism behind anxiety-triggered and exercise-triggered asthma and also exercise-induced bronchospasm (which is not asthma but can seem like it). So if you had a nightmare beforehand, that might be what happened.

        And allergy-triggered asthma is actually really really really common. Estimates vary from one third to about two thirds, but every resource I’ve read says that a lot of people with asthma have allergy triggers. So another possibility is that your allergy to cats and dogs expressed itself with delayed asthma symptoms. I can have a delay of up to 72 hours before my asthma flare starts when I’ve been exposed to triggers, if the triggers are ongoing. Asthma is typically worse at night, so a lot of people won’t notice asthma issues in the daytime but when they go to bed they get woken up anywhere between midnight and 5AM with breathing troubles (In fact, the most common time for serious asthma attacks to happen is at 3AM).

        So, long story short: Very possible it’s stress or allergies or both. And also very possible you’re still asthmatic. I’d strongly suggest chatting with a doc about the possibility you still have asthma and getting a just-in-case inhaler, because even mild intermittent asthmatics have been known to have life-threatening and fatal asthma attacks. It’s very rare, but it happens, and if you have a bad one, inhaler can make a huge difference in how well or even if you bounce back.

        • qatheworld

          I have “mild asthma” since childhood, and my worst attacks have also been combinations of several things at once that aggravate my asthma. Getting very emotional is one of those things, and it’s not uncommon, and when it combines with one or more allergens or another trigger like exercising it can set it off, worse than just one trigger. I use a rescue inhaler when necessary. It was much more common when I was younger, but I think I also just flat out avoid a lot of things that trigger my asthma which I couldn’t avoid as a child and teenager. I am a very contagious yawner (I yawned several times reading your article, and now I’m yawning writing about yawning). I also yawn for various other reasons including upset (which is very inconvenient if I’m arguing about something :P). I think I was about 12 or 13 before I realized yawning is equated with boredom by other people, when I yawned in my teachers face while she was talking to me one on one about something. She was pretty mad :P I had no idea what was wrong. I also have a condition which causes my blood pressure to drop (reducing blood oxygen) and I think sometimes it’s connected with that.

        • musingsofanaspie

          Thank you for the detailed answer. As a kid I had both allergy-triggered asthma and exercise induced asthma. The latter seems to be gone but I think the allergies still play a role, somehow in combination with extreme stress. I hadn’t considered stress as a trigger, so that’s good to know. I also didn’t realize that it’s common for reactions to be delayed.

          I should probably have a rescue inhaler and what you’ve said here is giving me the motivation to talk to my doc about that. As a kid, I carried my inhaler everywhere and used it pretty much daily. I no longer have frequent symptoms, but I do sometimes feel wheezy (not even sure that’s the right word) if the air conditions are bad in the summer.

          • ischemgeek

            Oh, another thing: It’s actually relatively rare for kids to grow out of asthma completely, and usually the kids who actually grow out of it permanently are very mild asthmatics as children. Only about 1/10 of kids w/ asthma will completely grow out of it in adulthood permanently, which is why my pulmo told me that it’s recommended that everyone who ever had asthma in their life should keep a rescue inhaler on hand in case it flares up again. They’re only $15 and the medicine is good for a year in my country, so it’s a small price to pay for insurance here. I’m told in the States, rescue inhalers can be much more expensive.

              • wicked which

                As a teen, I used to suffer badly from hayfever, even developped cold pneumonia one summer. It took a while before some doctor finally thought of giving me antihistaminica (of the sleep-inducing kind as they were normal then having been accidentally discovered by research into psychofarmaca). Only in my twenties, some allergologist told me that I was asthmatic. By then, more modern antihistaminica were available and I was quite good at managing hayfever, cat allergy etc. I also discovered that symptoms increased when in stress so I always had pills with me when I expected stress. My first child was born in high summer, that was the only time I ever had an emergency inhaler. Some years later, I decided that I should be able to get through a summer without medication. It went well till early september, one day back from holidays I was operated urgently because appendix was about to rupture. Never tried again without medication. Two years ago, plain spring, visiting family with a cat, on medication but evidently not enough, I broke a rib coughing badly. Of course, I never went to see a doctor about that because he anyway couldn’t do anything about it and there wasn’t any major danger the break being on the right in front: I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t see a doctor with a broken rib, I just didn’t want completely superfluous hassle.
                So yes, I am autistic, I am asthmatic. And by the way, on a friday night I am just too tired to yawn.
                Best wishes with your move, you’re most certainly amazing not letting your readers down in such stressful circumstances!

                • musingsofanaspie

                  I had my allergies and asthma diagnosed early in childhood after having a severe asthma attack on the way home from the state fair. I still remember it because it was terrifying. And then over the years, with lots of allergy shots, things just seemed to get better and it’s become a very infrequent concern. It’s good that you eventually got diagnosed and found the right medication. That can make a huge difference in being able to live comfortably!

                  Thank you for the good wishes on the move. I’m trying to get settled but it’s been a rough few days. So much to do and everything is new and unfamiliar!

  3. alexforshaw

    I am certainly a contagious yawner. Even talking or reading about it can trigger me (I yawned a few times reading this post, and I’m yawning now writing this). I’ve read that yawning can be an involuntary response to increase oxygen intake (this might correlate with ischemgeek’s comment above) and hence increase alertness. I don’t actually yawn when I’m bored or tired — I’m much more likely to drift off into my own thoughts, woolgathering.

    • musingsofanaspie

      I watched a Mythbusters video that said that yawning temporarily raises the heart rate, so I think the increased oxygen intake plus increased heart rate probably acts as a temporary stimulant when we’re tired or bored. And that could also be an anxiety reaction in the sense of preparing the body to ramp up a fight or flight response. Hmmmmm . . .

      And I’m yawning reading about your contagious yawning.

      This is going to sound like a silly tangent but do you (or anyone) know the origin of woolgathering? I’ve never understood why it means what it means.

      • alexforshaw

        Woolgathering originated as an analogy to the physical activity of gathering bits of wool from hedgerows and similar.

        From word-detective.com (bottom of page):

        Separating sheep from their wool is indeed a strenuous job, and sheep-shearing has even been turned into a competitive sport in Australia and New Zealand. But “wool-gathering” is an altogether different activity. In the 16th century, the rural poor would wander the fields where herds of sheep roamed, gathering bits of wool caught on bushes and brush, hoping to find enough to weave into cloth or to sell. As wool-gathering was hardly a lucrative occupation and involved a great deal of meandering around the countryside, by about 1550 “wool-gathering” had taken on the figurative meaning of “wandering aimlessly for no productive purpose,” especially in the fields of one’s own mind.

    • Liz

      Yup, looked at the tiger picture and now I can’t stop yawning! I was absolutely fine before.
      p.s. I love these blog posts. They’re so varied.
      p.p.s. Best of luck on the move!

  4. autisticook

    What Alex said about increasing oxygen intake. That’s all it is, as far as I’m aware. Even when I find myself copy-yawning, it’s usually within enclosed spaces, so would make more survival sense to copy someone – in case there really is a decreased supply of oxygen in that space (stale air). Not so much sympathy yawning.

    Still, the social interpretation of yawning runs deep. I have a friend who starts yawning whenever he’s feeling hyper, but I always ask if he’s tired, even while I *know* his yawns are for a different reason. It’s just so ingrained in me to assume tiredness or boredom.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Your theory about survival sense makes a lot of sense. :-) I wonder why yawning in certain situations has such a strong negative social connotation if it’s purpose is generally physiologically positive? There are so many circumstances in which it’s considered rude to yawn and people seem to reflexively point out when anyone in a group is yawning at a time that’s considered inappropriate.

  5. Otterknot

    I am *terrible* with sleep. Sleep is my drug. When I’m stressed (usually from new tasks at work, changes in my health, social overexposure, or ruminating), I sleep. I’m better at controlling it than I used to be, but I still become extremely tired when my stamina is reaching its limit, and I have a godawful time getting up for work in the morning. I am chronically late. For 10 years, I’ve set my alarm for six and tried to go to bed early, and every morning, I snap off my alarm while half-asleep and curl up, coveting each minute that I can stay semi-conscious. I know it’s a coping mechanism. Work is an enormous stressor for me, and it shames me (because my work is extremely flexible, decent-paying, benefit-having, theoretically easy, and the people are decent) to have it be so stressful. I think sleep is my form of denial. When I’m asleep, I can’t think about how little I want to go to work. I can’t ruminate on how ashamed I am by being trumped by work that I should want to do (at least I should want to keep getting money, but I fantasize daily about being fired! Even though I know I would run out of savings in a few months) if I’m asleep.

    I honestly don’t know what to do about sleep and me. I think I would do worse in a new job (any new job!), and yet I daily fail at controlling my emotions and coping mechanisms enough to wake up on time. It’s a cycle I know how to get out of (wake up on time), but since I feel like there’s no way to feel better about my work, I’m demotivated to do it. And then my self-esteem plunges because I feel disabled and like a bad worker, but like I’m also not *really* disabled and should just be able to make the changes in my life and coping mechanisms necessary to behave rationally towards my work (it pays the bill, I have to do it, it’s not scary, etc.).

    My father also sleeps. Throughout my life, he’s gone to sleep at random times during the day, draped sideways across my parents’ bed. I suspect he does it when he’s overloaded, too.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Oh, I do this when I have to wake up early for something stressful. On a typical day I’m up before the sun rises and ready to hit the ground running. But if I have to get up to leave for a trip or a business meeting, etc. I’ll not only need an alarm to wake up, I’ll feel intensely sleepy and not want to get out of bed at all. I hadn’t connected the two until just now, so thank you for the hint.

      Your work sounds like a constant source of stress. I have similar feelings about my social skills–they’re semi-passable and I don’t have to use them much, but I still feel like a failure in most social situations and wish I had the motivation to work harder at improving. And yet . . . I’m sure you get the idea. These thought circles can be so frustrating and demoralizing. I wish I had some helpful advice but all I have is a deep sympathy.

      • Otterknot

        I apologize for ranting about it. I’m having one of Those Days, where everything seems grouchier and harder than usual for no reason ;) They come and go.

        Exactly, if it’s something my brain doesn’t want to do or sees as a big change or challenge, I’ll sleep in for all I’m worth, down to the minute. I can usually tell what I actually feel about an event (as opposed to think I feel or wish I feel about it) by paying attention to how much I sleep or want to sleep beforehand. It’s useful to know what it means, even if it’s hard to change.

        And good luck with moving! It’s such a challenge. So many boxes, so many changes!

        • musingsofanaspie

          No worries. This is always a safe place to rant, especially if helps a little.

          It’s useful to know what it means, even if it’s hard to change.

          Yes! More and more I’m realizing that being mindful of what’s going on and being able to identify signs of anxiety, overload, etc is really helpful, even when it’s hard to change how I’m feeling.

          Thank you for the moving wishes. I’m a champion packer but the change is rough.

          • Otterknot

            I think knowing how you’re feeling (you general) seems to be half of the battle. It takes work to sort through how I’m supposed to feel to get down to how I do feel. I’ll take any clues I can get!

            Change is the hardest thing in the world. Or out of it.

            • extendedexile

              Yes yes yes to this whole conversation! I have been through long phases in my life where I experienced exactly this regarding sleep patterns and punctuality and performance at work, except that at the time I had no clue about what any of it meant, and so it fed into my feelings of failure and shame… also a lot of frustration and self-directed anger. I no longer have the major stress of going out to work, and I am starting to look again at some of the more difficult bits of my past through this new autistic lens and discover what it all meant. I am beginning to make peace with myself. It’s a slow process but there is so much in this blog to help things along…
              I still engage in other forms of ‘defensive withdrawal’ ahead of a stressful task or event. It’s very helpful to think of a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated behaviours in those terms. Thank you!

    • Beth

      Otterknot-Total sleep connoisseur here and, my sleep too can be an avoidant behaviour. Is there something reasonable, affordable, yet still special that you can treat yourself to at the end of a work day? That was how I got through days at jobs that I didn’t like. It only sort of helped but it gave me something to think about throughout the day. I know that it is kind of lame but it is the only thing that I can think of that helped me and some of my jobs were pretty terrible.

      • Otterknot

        Beth, I am a hot chocolate nut, and I usually drink hot chocolate, talk to my cats, and play on DuoLingo at the end of the day. I don’t know about you, but my problem with spending my day stressed (and my job honestly doesn’t deserve the level of stress I have over it!) is when I get home, I do recovery activities instead of maintenance activities, because the maintenance activities are also stressful (doing dishes, folding clothes, contacting people about volunteer-work-related things, etc.). I combine the two when I can (watch a Miyazaki film while I fold laundry, put Tatort on while I do dishes), but that can make me a bit absent-minded.

        • Beth

          I love hot chocolate too. My favourite is the Cocoa Camino Chili and Spice one. It gets me through afternoons with the kids. I never went to college or university as I was too burned out after high school so ended up working retail and restaurant jobs that I was ill suited to. The atmosphere in those jobs often ended up being simultaneously boring, hostile, and overstimulating. I suppose, when I look back, my treats at the end of the day were in part recovery activities. Spending the day stressed sucks though. I have a current thing with being stressed by my upstairs neighbours and many would say that I am being hypersensitive to be stressed by the sound of their feet and voices, but they yelled at me once and now they stress me out. Stress just sucks, no matter what.

    • musingsofanaspie

      This seems to be a thing–I watched a bunch of those “bet you can’t not yawn” videos and didn’t yawn a single time but I yawn every time my partner, dog, kid, etc. yawns. Also, every time I read or write about yawning, which is getting seriously annoying.

  6. AnnaBWell

    I get sleepy, too, when I am mildly stressed! I thought that I was the only one. More rarely, I become giddy or silly when I’m tired. However, when I am really stressed I get weepy. (not sad — tears just well up) I must remove myself to be alone if it is possible. Otherwise, I simply shut down and cannot engage in any meaningful way with anyone. This is all so interesting!
    Now I am wondering if my (also adult) autistic son’s tendency to get into a catatonic state is related to a similar stress mechanism. Also, the more that we learn about some autistic traits the less we seem to be debilitated by them. Does that make sense?

    • musingsofanaspie

      I get giddy when I’m actually overtired (as opposed to fake stress tired). Perhaps your son is experiencing a more drastic form of the “sleepy” reaction, like a full blown autistic shutdown. The two feel different for me and when I’m in shutdown, I can be fairly unreachable. It’s much more externally noticeable.

      Also, the more that we learn about some autistic traits the less we seem to be debilitated by them. Does that make sense?

      Absolutely! I think it’s a combination of being able to develop better coping strategies and the relief of having some confusing things normalized by knowing that others experience them as well.

    • EA

      I used to get into a catatonic state from eating wheat. It took me most of my life to figure out the cause. My immune system was totally compromised when it came to food, although I rarely got sick otherwise. I learned, in the course of my search for answers, that more neurotransmitters are produced in the gut than in the brain – which I find enlightening on many fronts.

      • musingsofanaspie

        That makes sense. My daughter was dating a young man with celiac for a while and eating wheat had really severe consequences for him. It took him nearly a year to recover after finding out what the problem was and cutting out gluten.

  7. fastcat73

    I yawn contagiously, especially with those I know well (maybe some sort of bond-building activity?). I also yawn when stressed to a degree. That is, when the stress is not extreme but still uncomfortable. Extreme stress in me causes a different phenomenon: I forget to inhale at all and the world gets fuzzy (oops).

  8. Beth

    Oh, and moving! It’s one of those bizarre things for me. I find it stressful but exhilarating too. I’ve moved about eight times in the last fifteen years and while I would rather not do it I’ve gotten really good at it. The last move I did involved selling a house and transporting everyone and everything, (including a one hundred-and-twenty pound dog, two kids, two cats, and an antique upright piano) over 2000 km and I pulled the whole thing off without a hitch nearly single handedly. Sometimes I feel really incompetent, but not while I’m moving.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Wow, that’s an impressive move! I’m getting a system down finally, I think. This move is a little trickier than the last since we’re going long distance and have a five day gap between leases, but we’re staying with our daughter in the interim so that should be fun.

      • Beth

        I hope it all goes well, The long-distance moves can be tricky especially when we live in such ridiculously big countries. I hope I never have to do an international move. There would be paperwork. Shudder. Good luck. :)

  9. Leah Kelley

    I love this post – and the comments… From the title, I thought at first you were going to hypnotize people into participating in the Autism Positivity Flashblog! Hee hee! I see now that is not where you went- unless there is some hidden subliminal message in there. So… I may have to read again just to check… but first I am going to curl up for a little nap :)

    Sending moving spoons and lots of appreciation for all you do <3

    • musingsofanaspie

      If I could hypnotize people into participating I would! As a kid I had a fleeting special interest in magic, including hypnotism, until I realized it didn’t work like it did in cartoons and I couldn’t actually get people to do my bidding at will.

      Thank you for the spoons. Time seems to be crawling today.

  10. Rae

    Considering just reading about yawning made me yawn the biggest yawn known to humankind, I’d be willing to wager a guess that Autistics (at least this Autistic) are not less likely to be susceptible to contagious yawning. I also have yawn fests with my cat. He makes me yawn and then I make him yawn. It’s a beautiful thing.

  11. Cecilia Therese

    It cracked me up to watch that yawning video put out by asap science. I am normally very susceptible to contagious yawning but not this video. I think I felt it was a challenge to not let myself yawn so I was probably distracting myself with watching in a different way, much like when I don’t want to connect with a movie because it’s getting too intense.

  12. Tami

    Interesting ideas. I’ve noticed I get dead tired too before going out or when I want to get out of doing something. I knew it was something I was doing to give myself an excuse but don’t really know how to work through it. When I am truly tired then I get slap happy. lol It’s fun.

    Regarding yawning… I just recently read that you are more likely to catch a yawn the more attached you are to a person. So if your significant other yawns or will probably catch it but if a random stranger you pass on the street yawns you are unlikely to catch it.

    I haven’t really noticed how much I catch yawns. But thinking about the oxygen thing that might be related to stress and shallow breathing. A couple years ago I ended up in the emergency room feeling like I was suffocating. Turned out I was hyperventilating and have a thing called hyperventilation syndrome. One of the identifying marks is constant yawning in an attempt to get more air. Maybe during times of stress you do change your breathing without noticing it and start to yawn to get more oxygen.

    • musingsofanaspie

      I read that about being more likely to yawn when someone close to you yawns. I suspect that’s how the “empathy” component of contagious yawning came about and why people are quick to assume that autistic people don’t do it.

      That’s interesting about hyperventilation syndrome. I may have an increased oxygen need that isn’t getting met during stressful times. I do know that my heart rate gets easily and sometimes drastically elevated under particular types of stress.

  13. Adair

    My thought on yawning:

    I once wandered into a bookstore where a couple of authors with Tourette’s were giving a talk/book signing. One of them talked about going to a Tourette’s convention and seeing the tics jump from person to person. I don’t have Tourette’s but have always been prone to catching tics like that. I’m not much of a contagious yawner, but I had a twitch in my left cheek for years as a child after being in a class with someone else who twitched that way, and I watched a video of Emma Zurcher-Long the other day and have since found myself making faces as a stim. I wonder whether autistics who copy others yawning a lot are doing it for similar reasons.

    • musingsofanaspie

      I’ve read that Tourette’s tics can be caught by suggestion, either seeing a tic or having the idea planted some other way. I don’t have Tourette’s either so that’s the extent of knowledge :-)

  14. levoyageviolet

    Oh God, this is 100% me. I have a lot of trouble with fatigue generally, but when I need to do something stressful, I start to get waaay more tired. Like someone said above, it becomes an avoidant habit because I’m tempted to think, “I’m too tired to do this now. I’ll try another time.” It’s hard because some days I really do have more fatigue than others, and it’s hard to tell what’s from stress and what’s from something else.

    Also – I think I’m actually really yawn-contagious. Since I saw that tiger picture and started reading about yawning, I haven’t been able to stop.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Today I feel like I’m moving through molasses it’s so bad. And I neeeeed to finish packing. Oh well, at some point that will resolve itself because it will become completely unavoidable.

      I can see how this feeling could overlap with fatigue from other sources and become really pervasive, especially during times of prolonged stress.

      • Kmarie

        I hope you found your energy! I have the toughest time with moves and I majorly procrastinate. Oh and I have contagious yawns…If my friend yawns on the phone I yawn…it always happens:)

  15. Kmarie

    Have you seen this?!!? The end is degrading – to talk about us be targets for meds and such. Use your voice if you can and leave a comment. This is ridiculous.
    (note from Cynthia: edited out the link but interested people can find the TED Talk video by searching on “Autism — what we know (and what we don’t know yet”)

    • musingsofanaspie

      Ugh, I watched about a minute of it and shut it off. The melodramatic tone was a bit much for me on the last day of April. :-/ Do you mind if I edit out the link from your comment and just put in the title for anyone who wants to search for it? I hate giving a boost to those kinds of things by linking to them.

      • Kmarie

        Yes Edit it out! I just wish we could all speak up and get it pulled. It’s just so ridiculous…I didn’t think of the boost it would get. Sigh. So depressing…

        • musingsofanaspie

          Thanks. It is depressing. If I can make myself watch it, I’ll leave a comment but I suspect it will fall on deaf ears. Geneticists are all about finding what “causes” us and “preventing” it (us?). Bah.

  16. Bek

    So happy that you shared this with us. I have always shut down during times of trepidation, particularly when heading into situations where I can’t accurately predict & brace myself for the impending sensory input. I also shut down with sensory overload. Of course, listening to my body, now, and going to rest for just a bit quiets my body but amps up my already busy brain. When I was little (6 months-4 years old) my mom would take me shopping for hours every weekend, to some of the busiest, most bustling, noisy, and visually cluttered stores in New York. Within minutes I would separate from her (once I could walk, at 7 months, never mind the issues of child safety) and climb through the racks of clothes to the quietest, most sound dampened dark spot and I’d sleep until my mother was done with her browsing and would think to look for me. One of the higher end department stores had a pillow and blanket stashed away, just for me, as my mom’s weekly visits always had me running for cover and sleep. I wish I could hibernate like I did back then but now, as parent to a 10 year old son who is also autistic/Aspie, this mama is wired to not dip far enough below the surface to really feel rested. As far as yawning goes, my son doesn’t have the contagious yawn thing and never has. I am a frequent yawner and the yawn of another works on me every time. I do enjoy the little sensory reset that a good yawn can give me. OMG! Just typing about yawning has me yawning my face off! So funny!

    • musingsofanaspie

      I tend to have full-on shutdowns from sensory overload, which are impossible to fight. Fortunately, I can usually fend off the sleepy the feeling if I have to. Because as you said, we can’t really afford to shutdown when we have family responsibilities.

      That’s interesting that your son isn’t a contagious yawner. And now I’m yawning again . . .

    • Jinma

      Oh, wow, I remember being dragged to department stores as a child and wanting to just lie down and go to sleep. I’m still not crazy about those stores- partly lighting, partly white noise or music on loudspeakers, and that awful sound of hangers being dragged along metal rods. And the cornucopia of products. Zzzzzz.

      I’ve seen the quote, “Sleep is the best meditation,” supposedly by the Dalai Lama. And sleep and meditation are very helpful to me. It’s pretty easy for me to fall asleep, but it’s not always convenient! I think the sleepiness can give me the message to step back, get perspective, and try to relax.

      • unstrangemind

        I used to sneak off to the round displays of clothing in the middle of the shopping floor and crawl under the garments to hide out in the relative peace of the cave made by the clothes. I’d veg out in there until the inevitable arm would come groping for me and mom would clutch hold of some part of me to drag me out for a scolding. I suspect, however, that she used to “not notice” I was missing and put off the dragging and scolding until after her shopping was done because it was more pleasant for her to just let me hide while she tried things on.

        • Otterknot

          Hiding in the middle of those racks was a lot of fun. Hiding in general was always fun when I was little. I’d forgotten how much I used to enjoy that (and still do, on the odd occasions an adult gets to play Hide and Seek, or the like).

          • unstrangemind

            I used to get in trouble all the time for hiding. Once I hid in some kitchen cabinets and then fell asleep and couldn’t hear people calling for me. They thought I had left. They called the police.

            • Otterknot

              Ha! I’m guessing police are used to calls like that. Kids can be as bad as cats, in getting into strange places and then falling asleep.

  17. Petra

    @yawning when anxious: I have chronic hyperventilation since a year and yawning seems to be part of that, as well. The slightest bit of anxiety leads to yawning.

  18. Flummox

    I am also a nervous yawner. My ex used to get extremely agitated about it, which then made me to it even more.

    Dogs also yawn when they are stressed.

  19. Arsenik & Old Lace

    Interesting. I’ve noticed I got in the habit of forcing myself to yawn in specific situations about a year ago. I was working retail and for some reason got it in my head that if I yawn, I’ll demonstrate to others that I’m at ease. Now I do it whenever I’m in a stressful social situation, whatever level of stress it may be. It’s weird because I know I’m forcing it, but it makes me feel better.

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