While the physiological and psychological processes being uncovered by brain science in the study of brainwaves is sometimes complex and still being investigated, certain basic principles are well-established, easily understood, and helpful for achieving the most effectively use of brainwave entrainment when seeking relaxation, improved sleep, lowering of anxiety, or other goals. This important background information and scientific knowledge presented here includes:
Stress is a significant individual and public health problem that is associated with numerous physical and mental health concerns. It is estimated that between 75% and 90% of primary care physician visits are caused by stress-related illnesses (2). Cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, immune system suppression, headaches, back and neck pain, and sleep problems are some of the health problems associated with stress (4,8). These conditions are some of the most burdensome health problems in the United States based on health care costs, the number of people affected, and the impact on individual lives. Extreme levels of stress were reported by 22% of respondents from the 2011 Stress in America™ survey, and 39% reported that their level of stress had increased during the past year (3). More than 80% of the survey respondents at the WorldatWork Conference in 2012 reported that stress moderately or significantly contributed to their health care costs (6).
When you hit a tuning fork, tuned to a particular sound frequency such as the note B, and hold it close to the strings of a guitar, you will notice that the B string on the guitar will vibrate because it has entrained on to the same frequency of the tuning fork. Interesting enough, the other strings will not vibrate. Only the one with the same tuning as the tuning fork.
When two pure tones of slightly different frequencies are delivered simultaneously to the two ears, is generated a beat whose frequency corresponds to the frequency difference between them. That beat is known as acoustic beat. If these two tones are presented one to each ear, they still produce the sensation of the same beat, although no physical combination of the tones occurs outside the... [Show full abstract]
However, very experienced practitioners of meditation are able to enter a Delta state and maintain consciousness at the same time. Yoga nidra or “yogi sleep” is a sleep-like state which yogis report during their meditations. This lucid sleeping state is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness (“super-conscious mind”). In this state, experienced yogis are able to regulate their body temperature and heart rate.
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Alpha: Alpha brainwave patterns are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Slower and lower in frequency (between 9-14 hertz), alpha waves are dominant when we’re calm and relaxed, but still alert. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation (your yoga class probably puts you in an alpha state), and also with our ability to be creative.
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.
Other than that the experience of those brainwave states is no different. Once we achieve a particular brainwave state using entrainment there is one significant difference to the experience and that is that we are usually still at a high level of consciousness. We’re not (hopefully) zoned out as we are when daydreaming or unconscious as we are when we’re sleeping. We maintain awareness and therefore we get to consciously experience what those brainwave states feel like in some detail.
Most programs start at a work/life busy brain Beta frequency of twenty light flashes per second (20Hz) and slowly ramp them down to Alpha (relaxation and meditation) at 8-12 HZ, Theta (deep relaxation and dreaming) at 4-8 Hz) and Delta (dreamless deep relaxation) of .5-4Hz. We have taken measurements at Mass General with state of the art EEG equipment and have seen a slowing of the brain waves from Beta to Theta in two minutes and complete brain wave harmonization in the left, right, anterior, posterior and occipital regions of the brain.
If anybody would like to look over the scientific evidence concerning brainwave entrainment and isochronic tones, I’ve done a lot of research over the years which I’ve collected at the PubMed website of NCBI – a branch of the National Institute of Health – that provides access to a large library of medical journal articles. I’ve made my list public so you can look through the journal articles that were published concerning this topic. Here’s the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/1tmDFOl0XtyA4/collections/51531796/public/. Most of the collection only gives access to abstracts or summaries unless you’re at some kind of educational institution that has a subscription to the particular journal that article is in, but I actually find abstracts really helpful. So have at it, read away. And if your psychiatrist/therapist thinks you’re nuts for feeling better after listening to isochronic tones, just whip out your 82-page collection of scientific journal abstracts written by her peers and give it to her to read. 🙂
4. Be hesitant committing to any BWE system making wild claims. Profit fueled marketers with little to no experience in the BWE field have created a slew of low-quality entrainment systems on the market. These products typically make outrageous promises such as permanently enhancing the brain within minutes of use. Although BWE is a powerful method to improve the mind, it’s not a magic bullet.
Words could be great stress relievers. One technique to quell sudden stress is to repeat a phrase from which you draw power and strength. “Think positively about releasing what is bothering you by repeating a positive mantra that uplifts you such as, ‘I am at peace,’ ‘All is well,’ ‘I choose to think thoughts that serve me,’ or ‘I love and believe in myself fully,’” says Carol Whitaker, life transformation expert and the author of Ridiculously Happy! The Secret to Manifesting the Life and Body of Your Dreams. “This too shall pass” is another good one. Repeating a mantra is actually a type of meditation that can make you more resilient to stress—some studies show it can actually alter your brain’s neural pathways. You can place reminders of your mantras near the places you tend to get stressed, like your work space. “I actually keep a file on my computer of great quotes and inspiring sayings. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life’s struggles, I clip them to my screensaver, post them on my social media, and even print them out to put on my refrigerator or desk,” Dr. Serani says.
You’ve heard the “om” sound yogis make when they meditate, right? Well, Joshi says using a buzzing sound is another way to use your voice to calm yourself in the midst of a freakout. “Bhramari, a humming bee sound, can be done by closing the eyes and making the humming sound like a bee,” she says. “These sound vibrations calm down the thought waves and relax the entire nervous system. External sound frequency resonates with the internal rhythm of the body and mind, creating peace and tranquility within.” Research from India has shown Bhramari to improve cardiovascular patterns. Press your ears closed for an even stronger vibration.
Writing or talking about the things that prey on you—in a diary, with friends, in a support group or even a home computer file—helps you feel less alone and helpless. One study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at people who had either rheumatoid arthritis or asthma— conditions known to be stress-sensitive. One group chronicled in a perfunctory manner the things they did each day. The other group was asked to write daily about what it was like, including fears and pain, to have their disease. What researchers found: People who wrote at length about their feelings had far fewer episodes of their illness.
Beta brainwaves are typically those we experience when we are wide awake and full of energy. You can think of this frequency as the equivalent of taking stimulants like caffeine, Adderall, or various nootropics. The Beta frequency is good for generating a concentrated, focused, and analytical mind. In fact, the brainwave you probably possess while reading this is of the Beta frequency.
Most wisdom traditions have employed methods that allow the subjects' brain waves to slow down such as meditation, [Hindu] kirtan, [Gregorian, Menzuma or Sufi] chanting, Hebrew davening, Native American drum circles and rain chants, Tibetan prayer bowls, and whirling dervishes and African trance dancing. The rhythm of these wisdom tradition technologies actually slows people's brain waves from their normal busy brain frequency we call Beta (13-30 cycles per second or Hz), to Alpha (8-13Hz) -- meditation, Theta (4-8Hz) -- deep relaxation and dreaming, and Delta (.5-4Hz) -- slow wave or dreamless sleep.