Binaural Beats: Music for Your Brainwaves
Have you ever noticed listening to music can have a calming effect? If you’ve ever searched for music for relaxation or to help ease stress or anxiety you may have come across a type of sound wave therapy called binaural beats. Binaural beats are said to help reduce stress, help you achieve deeper meditation, and improve focus and concentration.
So what exactly are binaural beats?
The binaural effect is achieved by using headphones to listen to a different tone in each ear. Each tone has a slightly different frequency, causing your brain to process the overall beat as a single tone, or the difference of the two frequencies. For example, if the left ear registers a tone at 200 Hz and the right ear registers one at 210 Hz, the binaural beat is 10 Hz.
How do they make us feel relaxed?
Binaural beats between 1 and 30 Hz are claimed to induce the same mental state as meditation, which is associated with reducing anxiety and stress while also slowing memory loss and the aging of the brain. The idea is that these beats can quickly help your brain create the same brainwave pattern as you would experience during a meditation practice. This is known as “brainwave entrainment,” and it has been shown to stimulate the brain into entering a specific state. The advantage of this is it works for almost everyone, so if you find meditation challenging and wish to incorporate music, binaural beats might be a good option to try.
What do we need to know about brainwaves?
Overall, your brain has five different types of waves: delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. The type of waves your brain is producing at any given time depends on what activity you are doing. So, if you are sleeping or in a state of deep relaxation, your brain will be in delta or theta waves. If you are awake but very calm – say you are meditating – your brain will likely be in alpha waves, whereas paying normal attention to your surroundings would be beta waves. If you’re extremely alert or in a heightened state of awareness then your brain would be producing gamma waves.
Do different beats produce different results?
You can find binaural beats in any of these frequency ranges. Each range is associated with different types of brain activity. For example, if you want to relax and relieve stress, you would choose a theta or an alpha range. All you need to experiment with binaural beats is a pair of headphones and access to YouTube, which has many binaural beat options to choose from, such as:
Binaural beats in the delta range (1 to 4 Hz) are associated with deep sleep, pain relief, anti-aging and healing
Binaural beats in the theta range (4 to 8 Hz) are associated with REM sleep, deep relaxation, meditation and creativity
Binaural beats in the alpha range (8 to 13 Hz) are associated with relaxed focus, stress reduction, positive thinking and learning – a good beat to accompany meditation
Binaural beats in the beta range (14 to 30 Hz) are associated with focused attention, cognitive thinking and problem solving – also good to listen to while working from home!
Binaural beats in the gamma range (30 Hz and above) are associated with peak awareness and memory recall
Keep in mind, for binaural beats to work, the two tones should have frequencies of less than 1000 Hz, and their difference should not be more than 30 Hz. Research has not shown any side effects to binaural beats, however, it is not recommended for those with epilepsy, and lower frequencies should be avoided during activities that require focus, such as driving.
Written by: Abby Vallejo, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern