The effects are strongest while you are listening to the tones because your brainwaves are synchronized and tuned into the frequency range you desire at that time. After you've stopped listening the effects can still linger for a while afterwards. The timescale will vary from person to person and be affected by what you do after you've stopped listening.
You’ve heard me talk before about how sound can make a difference to sleep. Patients often tell me that they fall asleep to relaxing music, they seem to find it really helps them let go of active thoughts and quiet their mind—which, like yours probably does, tends to race from one thing to the next all day long (aka I can’t turn off my brain syndrome).
Theta frequencies have long been viewed as the doorway to the subconscious mind. Heightened intuition, deep relaxation, extrasensory perception, and vivid dreaming are all connected to this frequency. There is a distinctly dreamy and otherworldly feel that accompanies the Theta brainwave. Many therapists and hypnotherapists make use of the Theta frequency to tap into the subconscious mind and heal core issues. As such, this frequency is a powerful way to change limiting beliefs and do deep inner work.
Binaural beats are pretty simple. Basically, you take two frequencies that are similar and play each one through it’s own stereo headphone. The two competing frequencies will work together in your mind to produce a pulsing. That pulse will be a certain frequency that corresponds to a number in hertz that is linked to what your brain produces when you are in certain states of consciousness.
It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when we’re calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when you’re stressed by listening to your body. When you’re tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you’re happy, you laugh easily. And when you’re stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues.
Tracks that move from alpha to theta can be a perfect vehicle for transitioning from a hectic day into a relaxing and rejuvenating sleep. Beginning with alpha waves takes you into a light but still alert meditative mind state where the difficulties of the day can be resolved and put to rest. Later, theta waves go deeper into the unconscious, preparing you for sleep and dreams.
A person might wonder what the problem with looking for validation is; why we shouldn’t seek to compare our experiences with those others have had. Shouldn’t there be some sort of indicators that our practice is producing an effect? There are indicators, but they are not the high profile, odd phenomena most frequently looked for, and they may not become apparent immediately. Some things do take a little time.
You don't have to buy one, though. It's not too hard to make your own binaural beat, and free software is widely available to do just that. The one that I used to make that little sample is an open-source program called Gnaural, available on the Sourceforge website. It's pretty easy to use, though it takes some practice before you can generate some of the really cool, more professional sounding beats. A binaural beat consists of two simple tones, and most people add that background pink noise. Nothing special.
There are five main categories of brainwave frequencies: Gamma (40Hz+), Beta (13 – 40Hz), Alpha (7 – 13Hz), Theta (4 – 7Hz), and Delta (<4Hz). Each category is associated with a different state of mind; so, for example, when you’re in a peak state of performance, your brain produces Alpha Waves, and when you’re in a deep sleep, your brain produces Delta Waves.
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If you search the Internet for "binaural beats" you'll quickly find there's a whole industry built on the idea that listening to binaural beats can produce all kinds of desired effects in your brain. It can alter your mood, help you follow a diet or stop smoking, get you pumped up for a competition, calm you down, put you to sleep, enhance your memory, act as an aphrodisiac, cure headaches, and even balance your chakra. Binaural-Beats.com offers a $30 CD that they call the world's first "digital drug". They claim it can get you drunk without the side effects. I-Doser.com offers a range of music tracks that they say simulates a variety of actual pharmaceuticals, such as Demerol, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. Suffice it to say that no matter what superpower you're looking for, someone on the Internet sells a binaural beat audio file claimed to provide it.
When we first use brainwave entrainment, we may not have anything specific in mind that will happen, but we hold a general expectation that “something” should happen. As we begin the process of entrainment we are on high alert looking for any little indication that something is happening. Pretty soon we identify some feeling or twitch or unusual perception. The moment we focus on whatever it is, the act of focusing on it magnifies the thing. Since we were already viewing the situation with an expectation that it was the entrainment that was going to produce some sort of result, we automatically associate whatever our phenomenon is with entrainment.
Subsequently, the term 'entrainment' has been used to describe a shared tendency of many physical and biological systems to synchronize their periodicity and rhythm through interaction. This tendency has been identified as specifically pertinent to the study of sound and music generally, and acoustic rhythms specifically. The most ubiquitous and familiar examples of neuromotor entrainment to acoustic stimuli is observable in spontaneous foot or finger tapping to the rhythmic beat of a song.