Binaural beats are the playing of two sine waves of close, but not the same, frequency into different earpieces of a set of headphones. The "beat" is heard as the brain tries to process them as a distinct sound, while taking into account the constructive/destructive interference. It is said to migrate brain waves to be closer to that frequency, like a sort of biological resonance, which is true. Of course the same can be said for listening to relaxing music help you relax, up tempo music to help you feel energetic, etc...
When stress overwhelms your nervous system, your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” This stress response can be lifesaving in emergency situations where you need to act quickly. But when it’s constantly activated by the stresses of everyday life, it can wear your body down and take a toll on your emotional and physical health.
Dealing with sudden stress—a phone call with bad news, a last-minute assignment from your boss, or an argument with your spouse—triggers a cascade of physical and mental symptoms that can be hard to stop. The first thing to do? Pay attention to your breathing pattern, and make an effort to start taking slow, deep breaths as stress relievers. “Breathing can change how we feel because emotions and breathing are closely connected,” says Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track and a Stanford University psychologist who’s done research on yogic breathing. “A revealing research study showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct respiration patterns.” In a follow-up study, participants actually started to feel the emotions that corresponded to an assigned breathing pattern. “This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath!” Dr. Seppala says. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to your brain and may lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Aside from Brain Evolution, this is another good resource for brainwave entrainment products that I recommend. They have binaural beats and isochronic tones for many different applications. The nice thing is that they are inexpensive, so you can experiment with different types and find ones that work for you. They also have a membership plan that makes experimenting even more affordable. It’s probably the best bang for the buck that I can find for brainwave entrainment.
They came to the table with the idea that the entrainment track would “cause” them to be in meditation, which it doesn’t. Or they thought that having the specific brainwaves the entrainment program promotes would “cause” them to be in meditation. It doesn’t. If you really understand the principles above, you’ll understand why. If you don’t grasp why yet, read these principles again and consider what they really mean. The answer is there.
There are countless techniques for managing stress. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and exercise are just a few examples of stress-relieving activities that work wonders. But in the heat of the moment, during a high-pressured job interview, for example, or a disagreement with your spouse, you can’t just excuse yourself to meditate or take a long walk. In these situations, you need something more immediate and accessible.
The binaural-beat appears to be associated with an electroencephalographic (EEG) frequency-following response in the brain (3). Many studies have demonstrated the presence of a frequency-following response to auditory stimuli, recorded at the vertex of the human brain (top of the head). This EEG activity was termed "frequency-following response" because its period corresponds to the fundamental frequency of the stimulus (Smith, Marsh, & Brown, 1975). Binaural-beat stimulation appears to encourage access to altered states of consciousness.
A 2008 study at Hofstra University played two different binaural beats and a control sound (a babbling brook) to patients with high blood pressure. There was no difference between the groups. In one small study from Japan that was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 2006, they played various binaural beats to nine subjects, and observed the resulting EEGs. They found great variability in the results. Their conclusion was that listening to binaural beats can produce activity on the human cerebral cortex, however the cause was more likely a conscious auditory reaction and was not correlated to the frequency of the binaural beat. However, a 2005 study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that they were able to induce a desired frequency in the EEG matching the phantom beat frequency encoded in a binaural beat, however this was with a single subject and was neither blinded nor controlled.
Consider the following analogy. Imagine a ballroom full of people dancing together. When the music changes to a faster tempo, the dancers move faster in response to this. When a slower piece of music is played, the dancers’ rhythm slows down as well. In a similar way, the frequency of your brain will change in response to the frequency of the binaural beat that it is exposed to. For example, a person who is in a state of very deep meditation may have a dominant brainwave frequency of 5 hertz, so by listening to a binaural beat with a frequency of 5 hertz you can entrain your own brainwaves to a similar state.
For a little variety, you can use the 60 minute Delta Ultra Deep Standalone Meditation which takes you down into Delta and holds you there for an extended period of time. If you can stay awake during this entire time, you will have some amazing meditative experiences. (If you fall asleep, don't worry! It's natural and with practice you will be able to stay awake more often.)
With the binaural beats, this may be difficult to do since you need to listen to the twin frequencies and allow your brain to create a third one to bridge the gap. Ideally, you will be listening to these beats through headphones so carrying out other work may be challenge. However, with isochronic frequencies, the tone can be heard without headphones which means you can run the mp3 with a speaker and allow it to play in the background as you carry out your work. Of course, activities such as driving or operating heavy machinery should NOT be undertaken when you are listening to these tones because your attention is shared between the two tasks. Tasks like gardening or sewing or cooking can be done while your brainwave entrainment music is playing.
Delta brainwaves have the slowest frequencies, ranging between 0.1 and 4 hertz, and these are the brainwave states associated with deep sleep, trance states, and unconsciousness. Few people can remain awake during delta brainwaves states, although this state is recorded in awake infants between ages of three months and one year and also in babies just before birth. Delta waves are also linked with increased production of HGH, DHEA, and the neuro-transmitter serotonin.
^ Trost W. and Vuilleumier P., Rhythmic entrainment as a mechanism for emotion induction by music: a neurophysiological perspective. In The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression, and Social Control, Cochrane T., Fantini B., and Scherer K. R., (Eds.), Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013, pp213–225.