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Humans (and our pets) frequently instinctively stretch as soon as we wake up. But why? What is happening in our bodies when we stretch and yawn to wake ourselves up?

Hosted by: Hank Green
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Hank: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Alright, well, maybe the second thing you do, after you say some nasty stuff to your alarm clock.

Have a cup of coffee? Watch the news? Read twitter in your bed? Or.. do you - ah yeah - give it a good stretch? That’s feels good. You are not the only one. Along with humans, some animals—like your pet cat or dog — also instinctively stretch after they wake up from a long sleep.

Except what those animals are doing isn’t called stretching. It’s called pandiculating. Pandiculation is the act of stretching while yawning. It’s from the Latin word pandere, meaning "to stretch. " You’ve likely seen plenty of cats and dogs pandiculate before. You’ve seen this move... they arch their back, drop their belly, and lengthen their legs in a sort of full body yawn.

Humans pandiculate too -- often first thing in the morning. This instinctive movement is the one where you extend your legs, raise your arms, and tilt your head up, and yawn. So why do we pandiculate in the morning? And why do we stretch in general? Think of it like this: Your alarm clock wakes you up, but stretching wakes up your sleepy muscles. Plus, it makes you feel good. Stretching is good for your body in all kinds of ways. Your muscles typically feel stiff and tight in the morning from lack of movement.

That’s because many people lie in the same position for much of the night. Stretching loosens and realigns your muscles, letting your brain know, “Hey! It’s time to wake up! Time to get things moving again!” Stretching also gets your blood pumping. While you sleep, your muscles relax and your blood flow decreases, slowing your heart rate way down.

In fact, your heart rate is usually at its lowest just before you wake up. A big stretch increases your blood flow to your extremities, improving your circulation. This combination of loose muscles and increased circulation also helps with flexibility, making the morning a good time for you to get your yoga on.

So the reason you instinctively pandiculate in the morning is basically to reboot your body. It realigns your muscles, it improves your circulation, and it makes you more flexible. Stretching has also been shown to relieve stress and tension, and so has yawning — meaning pandiculation might pack a double whammy.

So, what are you waiting for? Make like a cat and pandiculate. Thank you to our patrons for stretching the limits of awesome — you keep these answers coming. If you’d like to submit a question to be answered, or get some of these videos a few days before everyone else, just go to And if you just want to keep getting smarter with us, you can go to and subscribe!