For many of us, it may be the very first thing we instinctively do upon hearing our morning alarm go off. But have we ever stopped to wonder why we do it? No, it's not reaching for the cellphone to check Twitter, it's the particular combination of stretching and yawning - for which scientists have coined the term pandiculating. So, besides it feeling so good, what's the logic behind this universal sleepy mannerism?
For starters, it's important to understand what exactly is pandiculating. It's defined as the constriction and release of muscles, which signals a stretch in our body. And humans aren't the only mammals doing it. Cats and dogs, in particular, will do it up to 40 times each day! But when it comes to humans, it's pretty much wired into our DNA. Pandiculating goes back all the way to the gestation period. We're practically born doing it. So now that we know what it is, let's unpack why we do it. It goes like this: during sleeping hours, muscles are stagnant, and fluid has a knack for building up. So by the time we wake up, we pandiculate to help massage all those fluids back to their regular positioning and realign our muscles to continue on with our day.
In addition, a combined yawn and stretch have been noted as prime stress relievers, meaning we start our day (or end our nap) on a good note, relaxing our body and mind before taking on what's next. According to physical therapist Nicholas Licameli, pandiculating activates our body's parasympathetic system, which is responsible for all things rest, recovery, and relaxation. Plus, it can increase blood flow, which helps rejuvenate our muscles. Overall, the benefits are endless, and most importantly, it just feels so relaxing to do it! Whether you're clued into your pandiculating habits or not, this is an important function for us humans and is yet another way we're connected to other mammals!
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