Why Do We Hiccup And How Can You Stop Them?

holding breath

These bad boys can be extremely annoying and come on at some very inconvenient times, but what exactly triggers them?

Hiccups are an involuntary activity of the diaphragm. The muscles used when you breath are the intercostal muscles located in the spaces between the ribs. Two things occur in rapid succession: first there is a quick and involuntary inhalation of air and second as the muscle contracts, the glottis (space between your vocal cords at the top of the larynx) quickly slams shuts which is what makes the “hic” sound.

Science doesn’t even know what the purpose is and there is no obvious function. This isn’t to say there is no definite function, but more so to say it hasn’t been discovered yet if there is one. Perhaps it is a remnant of some evolutionary function that is no longer needed in humans but still lingers. Maybe it is something that we need for development in our bodies when we’re young (fetuses hiccup in the womb after the 8th week from conception) but isn’t necessary later in life as we get older. Children tend to hiccup more often and in fact the chances to trigger this phenomenon declines with age.

One thing is that it is actually possible to hiccup for longer than most of us think. Imagine hiccuping for an entire day non stop? What about a week or even a month?! I remember a while ago when watching TV, there was a show talking about a man who’s be hiccuping for 68 YEARS straight. This poor man apparently hiccuped around 40 times a minute. Now that is tough.

So what on earth actually causes this series of actions to occur? There are a number of theories on why we hiccup with a few of the leading ideas listed below.

Drinking or eating too fast

This is probably the most common trigger. You are so pumped to gulp down that tasty beverage or food you’ve been thinking about all day that you can’t help but chug the sustenance as if there would be nothing left on earth in 10 seconds. You can also swallow air in addition to the intended “payload” to be delivered into the put of your belly. The stomach becomes distended and irritated. The diaphragm ends up contracting like it does when breathing.

Drinking or eating too much

This is especially true with fatty foods or of course drinking alcohol because you feel the need to consume ridiculous amounts proving to everyone how “awesome” you are. Same as above this is an action that can irritate the diaphragm.

Disturbance to the nerve pathways from the brain

Sometimes hiccups can be brought on by temperature changes or emotional situations. On the other hand this is also the reason why an abrupt shock can sometimes “cure” the attack.

A sign of disease or illness

Normally hiccups are just minor annoyances but persistent hiccups can be a sign of disease. Sources suggest that they can be brought on by many ailments including: brain trauma,  spinal cord integrity, infections, lesions, central nervous system conditions, metabolic disorders, peptic ulcers and even anesthesia.

cover mouth guy

So how can I get rid of these buggers once I start hiccuping?

  • Hold your breath (This is the one I use and it almost always works)
  • Breathing into a paper bag
  • Drink a glass of water quickly
  • Get scared or surprised abruptly

Some odd potential cures I’ve heard but have no idea on the validity of them:

  • Swallow a teaspoon of sugar
  • Sip on some lemon juice
  • Put your fingers in your ears to block the canals
  • Use smelling salts
  • Pull hard on your tongue

Conclusion

Even though you might be excited for that special drink or that meal you’ve been craving, take some time and eat slow! Also don’t overload yourself just because it tastes awesome. Try and do your best to drink in moderation.

Chances are those pesky hiccups are in fact going to show up from time to time and you can’t really avoid it until it’s too late but when they do my top 3 suggestions would be to hold your breath, drink a glass of water fast or if you happen to have one laying around you: breathe into a paper bag. If you’re like me you might not think much of the evil hiccups, but when they kick in it’s usually at the most inopportune time and you’re frantically trying to get rid of them!

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Why Do We Yawn And Why Is It Contagious?

girl yawning

Everybody does it. Sometimes it’s early in the morning, sometimes it’s the middle of the day and your at work or school and sometimes it’s at night. So what actually causes us to yawn?

Yawning is an involuntary action and once you start it’s pretty hard to stop yourself. A yawn is a coordinated movement of the thoracic muscles in the chest, diaphragm, larynx in the throat and palate in the mouth. It coats the lungs with a wetting agent (surfactant) to coat the alveoli (tiny air sacs) in the lungs. We generally cannot yawn on command and it is triggered by neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus of the brain.

Surprisingly even with all the time, science and technology we have today there isn’t a definitive answer! Yes believe it or not, we STILL don’t know exactly why we yawn! There are several leading theories but there aren’t any proven facts that highlight one above others.

Let’s go through a few of the main theories.

Yawning Gives Us More Oxygen And Releases Carbon Dioxide

There are theories on this benefiting the respiratory and circulatory system. Could we need more oxygen in our lungs or do we need to expel more carbon dioxide that has been building up?

Modern day evidence makes it seem unlikely that yawning is a function of the respiratory system though. The circulatory system however could be affected by yawning to increase blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen in the blood thus improving alertness and motor functions.

Yawning Cools The Brain

Recent studies have suggested that yawning could be related to brain temperature (Gallup and Gallup, 2008). Basically when the brain goes beyond the normal temperature, yawning could cool the brain. This may involve the body’s cooler blood flowing into the brain and warm blood circulating out through the jugular vein.

An odd contradictory in my opinion is that you are more likely to yawn in colder temperatures such as winter than in the warmer summer which I’d expect the opposite considering the environments temperature should affect a body as well.

Yawning Stretches The Lungs And Lubricates Them

The idea here is that stretching and yawning may be a way to flex the muscles, joints, increase your heart rate and feel more awake.

Along with this is the theory that yawning is a protective reflex that redistributes surfactant (oily substance) that helps lubricate the lungs and keep them from collapsing. This is supposed to suggest that if we didn’t yawn, taking deep breaths would become increasingly more difficult as time goes on.

Yawning Indicates A Change In Behavioral State

This would be associated with the change from wakefulness to sleep or boredom to alertness for example. This could potentially have a correlation with physical states as well, such as going from exercising or doing some activity like walking to sitting in a chair and not moving much for an extended period of time.

group yawning

So How Come Yawning Is Contagious?

This is an extremely interesting concept and one that tends to be true. If you are in a classroom or in a group of people somewhere and you visibly yawn, more than likely other people will yawn within 5 minutes of you. Even thinking about yawning can start to trigger this contagion.

One idea is that it is a physical signal that our bodies are saying it’s time to sleep or get up kind of like an internal 24 hour clock. If one person is yawning and then other people start yawning because of it, then they all may go to sleep around the same time and thus have a synchronized cycle.

Conclusion

The truth regarding yawning is that it is still a mystery. Even after all the time passed and resources available to us, we still don’t know everything about the eluded “yawn”. Most the theories seem logical and possible so it’s very interesting that a large scale official study has not been conducted to get the 100% correct scientific truth.

For now I’ll just say we yawn because our bodies are telling us we need more sleep to function properly, but that’s just me!

Hope you liked this post! Please feel free to like, share, tweet and comment. If you want to discuss your favorite interests and make money while doing it then click here.

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