Another consideration of stress is whether it is acute or chronic. “Acute stress” is what an individual experiences at the time the stressor is encountered (4). The stress response is activated, and the body returns to homeostasis once the challenge of the stressor is removed or the person successfully manages the situation. For example, an individual on the way to an important meeting gets into a traffic jam and realizes she is going to be late; the stress response starts. When she calls her boss and learns that she can conference into the meeting while on the road, the stress response subsides with the resolution of the situation. When an individual experiences acute stress on a consistent basis, such as with overcommitting at work or constant worrying, it is referred to as “acute episodic stress” (4). Individuals who experience acute episodic stress often show signs and symptoms of stress (Table 1) that can negatively impact physical and psychological health. These individuals can learn how to change behaviors and manage their stress to prevent these consequences.
At Gaia Meditation, most of audio programs including free relaxation music, free sleep music, free meditation music etc. use the technology of brainwave entrainment (or “brainwave synchronization”) with powerful binaural beats and isochronic tones. Our audio tracks utilize pure and precisely tuned sound frequencies which will drive your brain activity (consciousness) into your desired state: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta or Delta.

The body responds in essentially the same way to made-up imagery as it does to real experiences. Positive, relaxing images can be an effective tool for relieving stress. Try it for yourself with this Guided Imagery podcast from our Founder and Director Dr. James Gordon, or check out Dr. Gordon’s book Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression for dozens more techniques, including scripts for guided imagery exercises.
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.
“…humans have always been intrigued by the possibilities for influencing mental functioning that emerge from combining rhythmic sound and rhythmic light stimulation. Ancient rituals for entering trance states often involved both rhythmic sounds in the form of drum beats, clapping, or chanting and flickering lights produced by candles, torches, bonfires, or long lines of human bodies passing before the fire and chopping the light into mesmerizing rhythmic flashes. From Greek plays to Western opera, our most popular entertainment forms have made use of combinations of lights and sounds. Some composers, such as the visionary Scriabin, actually created music intended to be experienced in combination with rhythmic light displays.”
But the notion of changing brain waves is a very appealing one, from a marketing stand point. People can visualize brain waves and we like synchrony. Also, in the computer age, we understand the notion of “programming.” We also have been prepped for the future by movies such as The Matrix, where people could master Kung Fu in minutes by simply “downloading” the knowledge. This gives the whole notion a superficial plausibility. But the science just isn’t there.

Your brainwave activity during sleep is largely distinct from your brain activity when you’re awake. (REM sleep is one exception to this—during REM, your brain is active in ways very much like when you’re awake.) During non-REM sleep, the slower, lower frequency theta and delta waves dominate, compared to the alpha and beta waves that are prominent when you’re alert and active.
If brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.