With almost 100 years of research validating the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment, it’s no wonder why it’s used by thousands of people all over the world. What does the future entail in this exciting field? With the adoption of smartphones, virtual and augmented reality, and advancements in technology reducing the cost of EEG and other forms of biofeedback devices, the entrainment possibilities are endless.
The immobilization response. If you’ve experienced some type of trauma and tend to “freeze” or become “stuck” under stress, your challenge is to first rouse your nervous system to a fight or flight response (above) so you can employ the applicable stress relief techniques. To do this, choose physical activity that engages both your arms and legs, such as running, dancing, or tai chi, and perform it mindfully, focusing on the sensations in your limbs as you move.
There is a lot to like about this technology as a potential treatment for sleep problems. It’s low impact and non-invasive, it doesn’t rely on chemical drugs, it’s inexpensive and for most people likely easy to adopt and maintain. In this way, it’s similar to the other behavioral therapies for sleep that I like so much, including meditation and relaxation techniques, and other mind-body therapies.
Our everyday, waking brain used for active intelligence operates at approximately 13 hertz, which is in the range of high alpha or low beta frequencies. People who have certain learning disabilities and problems with attention often have low levels of 13 hertz frequency brainwaves in crucial areas of the brain used for sequencing tasks and doing simple math calculations. This is one concrete example of how brainwaves are associated with thinking and behavior. Each identified brainwave frequency has a different effect on a person’s ability to think, act, and feel.
Beta brainwaves are next highest in frequency after alpha waves, occurring at 13 to 30 hertz. Beta brainwaves are what we experience every day as we are awake and using our analytic mind. Beta brainwaves are needed for concentrating on mental tasks, and when they are present for too long of a time, they lead to stress, anxiety, and even paranoia. Most people do not have trouble achieving beta brainwaves and in fact suffer from spending too much time in beta brainwave patterns. However, those with attention deficit disorder (ADD) who have problems focusing their attention can benefit from learning how to achieve and remain in beta brainwave states for longer amounts of time.
“Stress and sleepless nights are closely linked,” Buenaver says. “If you’re in pain, tend to worry, or are coping with a difficult situation in your life, you may have more stress hormones than usual circulating in your body. A poor night’s sleep adds even more. And those hormones may never be fully broken down. It’s like running an engine in fifth gear all the time.”
It is important to note that not all stress is bad. Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress on an almost daily basis, and it cannot be completely eliminated. Stress becomes a problem when too much is experienced, and it has a negative impact on behaviors, relationships, and health. The term “eustress” refers to positive stress that is associated with improved performance and productivity. “Distress” is negative stress that is associated with performance decrement and negative health consequences. The individual’s perception of the stressor and coping resources determine whether a situation is eustress or distress. College graduation is a stressor for most. The student who has a job or who has been accepted to a graduate program likely perceives the stress of graduation as eustress, whereas the student who has student loans and no immediate plans of a job or further education perceives distress.
Theta brainwaves are next highest in frequency above delta and are especially important for many people using brainwave entrainment and meditation because theta waves are at a threshold, forming a link between wakefulness and the subconscious mind. Theta waves bridge between our awake self and the creative and insightful understandings from below our conscious awareness, and while they are not common in awake adults, they are normative for children under 13 years old.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
In a recent national survey, 44 percent of adults said stress had caused sleepless nights at least once in the previous month. All that tossing, turning and staring at the ceiling can leave you feeling tired and more stressed the next day. If you’re caught in this vicious cycle of anxiety and insomnia, there’s good news: Simple stress relief techniques can help you sleep better and feel calmer.
Stress affects your whole body, so find a pick-me-up for each of your senses. Turning on a favorite tune uses your sense of hearing for a science-backed burst of good feeling, and using aromatherapy uses your sense of smell to relax you. “Oils like lavender and lemon reduce stress,” Dr. Serani says. “Also, don’t forget that your sense of smell is the most nostalgic of all your senses,” so if you have a scent that reminds you of comfort, keep it on hand to sniff when you’re freaking out. Your sense of touch can be employed by stroking a “talisman”—a favorite or sentimental item—or even an “intention stick,” which you can hold like a wand to feel more in control. Chew gum to use your sense of taste to curb stress (scientists think it’s the lasting flavor, not just the act of chewing itself, that makes gum such a great stress reliever). Besides using your mind’s eye to visualize a happy place, you can use your sense of sight to look at calming images—cat videos on the Internet have actually been scientifically proven to lower stress.
Isochronic tones work just the same in delta as they do in alpha, theta and beta and they are widely used in the brainwave entrainment community to help people sleep. Like you, I’ve also seen some websites saying they don’t work in delta, but it’s a bit like the game of Chinese Whispers, where someone makes a comment and then after it gets passed around and shared a lot the message gets distorted and appears to be a fact. I don’t know of any scientific reason why they wouldn’t work in delta. I remember some people talking about this on a brainwave entrainment forum many years ago. They were saying they found isochronic tones a bit too abrupt for using to help them sleep and they preferred binaural beats, as they thought they were a more soothing sound. That was just a personal preference shared by a couple of prominent forum members at the time and some people then took that as a fact for everyone. That’s where I think that belief originated from.
This is probably the most popular choice of frequency. The theta state is a state of tremendous stress relief. The benefits associated with theta level relaxation include improved concentration, reduced hyperactivity and improved memory. While in a state of theta relaxation, one’s blood pressure, breathing and heart rate all slow to a much more restful and healthy level that promotes natural healing. During theta relaxation one may also experience vivid flashes of mental imagery as the mind opens to memories or subconscious information that is not available to the conscious mind during the normal waking state. The theta state is a very deep state of relaxation that is excellent for deep hypnosis and mental programming.
Because the mind and body are a single system, changing our brainwaves and spending more time in harmonious, relaxed, and restorative mind-states also affects our physical health. Physical health then reinforces our mental-state, and a feedback loop of either positive or negative processes becomes established. Research studies have shown beneficial effects of using brainwave entrainment for treating migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and for managing physical pain.
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.
Beta: These brainwaves are associated with high levels of alertness and arousal. When beta brainwave patterns dominate, we’re primed to focus and concentrate, to make decisions and think analytically. When you’re analyzing an issue at work, you’re probably in a beta-dominant state. Beta waves are fast, with a higher frequency (between 15-40 hertz). At the higher levels of this range, beta waves are associated with anxiety.
I have many new age, meditation, classical and jazz cds that I use for relaxation. This Steven Halpern cd is now my favorite one. I can listen to it for hours on end while I read, write, use the computer, or just veg out on the couch at home or lounge at the pool. I especially love the tracks with the ocean wave sounds mixed in with the electronic music. I definitely am in the theta brain wave state while listening to it, and I know that's the reason it is so much more soothing than any other cd that I own. It is really great for eliminating any anger or anxiety that I may be feeling. I believe it's also improving my sleep. I give this cd the highest possible recommendation!
Different people have different requirements when it comes to frequency changes in the music and it's quite impossible for us to anticipate them all. We would need to produce so many different variants of all our music productions that it would be impractical to manage and confusing for our customers. For example, if we were to start raising the frequency from theta up to alpha between the 50-60 minute mark of a piece of music, this would be useless to someone who used the music for a guided meditation that was only 45 minutes long. In the early stages of the development of our brainwave entrainment music we had so many different requests from different people that we could only opt for the simplest solution, which is to use a consistent frequency throughout. It might not be the absolute "perfect ideal", but this is still a very effective technique and the feedback we've received on our brainwave entrainment music has always been exceptionally positive.
A simple spinal twist can help you get a better night's sleep. It alleviates tension that's built up in your lower back throughout the day. Sitting on your bed with legs crossed, place your right hand down on the bed behind you and rest your left hand on your right knee. Sit up straight and inhale for four to eight counts, lengthening your spine as you breathe. On your exhale, begin to twist toward your right hand (don't strain your neck). Hold this position for four more full breaths, lengthening your spine on the inhales and deepening your twist on the exhales, if it feels comfortable. Repeat yoga asanas on opposite side. (These stress-reducing yoga poses also help calm anxiety.)
Joe: The Journey soundscape took a lot of work. I wanted to bring in the very best of what I knew about brainwave entrainment and to make the best brainwave entrainment product—with the best entrainment technology—that I possibly could. So, there are all sorts of things going on in Journey to provide a sound bed to support the experience of expansiveness and also communicate elements of the heart-based work I talked about earlier. (See part I of this interview, A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation.)
From a brainwave entrainment effectiveness perspective, it’s my understanding that the response from isochronic tones stimulation starts to diminish over 30Hz and that 40Hz is about the limit for using them. So from what I’ve read on the topic a 100Hz beat wouldn’t work, probably because it’s too fast for the brain to process and synchronise with it.
Now you are ready to experience Delta with the Theta & Delta Deep Meditation tracks. These two tracks work together the same way the Alpha/Theta recordings do. If you have a full hour, definitely use both of these tracks together, starting with Theta Deep Meditation first. The combination of these two tracks is extremely powerful and will give you maximum benefit to your mind, body and emotions.
There's nothing like anxiety to annihilate your sense of humor. It would follow, then, that it's impossible to feel stressed when you're hunched over in a fit of giggles. Studies have shown, in fact, that laughter not only relieves tension, but actually improves immune function. Swap jokes with your friends. Rent a funny movie. Stop taking things so seriously!
According to a recent study published in the British journal Heart, slow or meditative music is a proven stress buster, so set your dial to a soothing station during your commute. And, if you're stuck in a traffic jam, sneak in this quick exercise: Grab your steering wheel and clench the muscles in your fingers, arms, shoulders and back. Do this until your muscles begin to tremble (about 45 seconds), then release. You'll produce a wave of relief in your upper neck and arms all the way down to your fingers. Just make sure your foot is on the brake when you let go of the wheel! (FYI: pink noise is the newest tool for reducing stress.)
In addition to its calming physical effects, the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity. Best of all, anyone can reap these benefits with regular practice. And while you may choose to pay for a professional massage or acupuncture session, for example, most relaxation techniques can be done on your own or with the aid of free audio downloads or inexpensive smartphone apps.
In addition to understanding how exercise can help manage stress and the types of exercise to recommend for stress management, it is important to understand common barriers that might affect exercise participation in high-stress clients. Lack of time is the most commonly reported exercise barrier for individuals in general. A lack of motivation, fatigue, poor sleep habits, and poor dietary habits are factors associated with stress that can negatively impact exercise compliance and adherence (4). Common exercise barriers and stress-related health problems should be taken into consideration when developing an exercise prescription for high-stress individuals.