Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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How familiar are you with the term binaural beats? When people hear the word for the first time, most of them associate it with a music genre.
Nevertheless, it refers to a technique used for inducing multiple brainwave states after being exposed to a binaural beat. This sound is combined from two beats of similar frequencies no louder than a thousand hertz.
There is some evidence that gamma binaural beats can help cognitive function in the brain. Gamma binaural beats are those in the frequency of approximately 40Hz-100Hz.
In recent times, this technique has started generating plenty of attention because of the role it plays in stress reduction and sleep improvement. Depending on the frequency of the sounds, the brain is triggered to improve focus, induce creativity, reduce stress, enhance cognitive performance, etc. This seems to be particularly true for gamma binaural beats.
Have a look at the following detailed guide to this sort of audio music.
What are binaural beats?
A binaural beat is a result you get by combining two sound frequencies, which are slightly different, so as to create a new tone that equals the difference between them. The term binaural stands from relating to both ears, as both sounds travel to a separate ear. The journey of these tones ends in the inferior colliculus, referring to the brain part in charge of gathering auditory input.
The best way to fully understand binaural audio music is through an example. Let’s assume you’re listening to a tone whose frequency is 135 hertz in your left ear while listening to another tone at a frequency of 120 hertz in your right ear. At that moment, you aren’t really listening to two separate sounds but to a single one at fifteen hertz. Find out more about the benefits of binaural beats.
It’s no wonder binaural beats are often explained as auditory illusions, as you are exposed to a sound that’s not actually there. Nevertheless, a binaural beat can only work if the frequencies of the two sounds don’t exceed 1000 hertz, whereas the difference in the number of hertz is no higher than thirty. As said before, both tones must be listened to separately for the brain to create the expected auditory illusion.
The superior olivary complex plays a crucial role in processing sounds. It’s located in the stem of the brain and participates in processing the auditory input from both ears. Its job is to synchronize the activities of the neurons inside the brain. The superior olivary complex responds whenever it hears two sounds of close frequencies by creating a binaural beat. This beat has the power to alter brain waves by increasing their strength, which in turn controls the process of thinking and feeling.
Brain wave types
The positive effects of binaural audio music can only be understood by analyzing the way in which brain waves work. Such waves are created when neurons synchronize. For those unfamiliar with the function of neurons, these cells are responsible for creating thoughts, behaviors, and emotions by using electrical signals. Whenever neurons communicate with each other, the brain allows people to feel and think.
There are five major types of brain waves to take into account when trying to get a grasp of the benefits of binaural audio music, which include alpha, beta, gamma, theta, and delta waves. For example, alpha waves range between eight and thirteen hertz and are linked to a state when a person is both wakeful and relaxed. The alpha brainwave state features stress reduction, positive thinking, relaxed focus, and fast learning.
Beta waves range between thirteen and thirty hertz and are always related to high alertness and arousal. When these are dominant, individuals are stimulated to focus, improve their concentration, make better decisions, and think in an analytical manner. As a result, binaural beats in the beta range are associated with problem-solving, better memory, and increased concentration. Anyhow, it’s worth keeping in mind that beta waves close to thirty hertz are associated with anxiety.
Furthermore, the range of theta waves starts at four and ends at eight hertz. This pattern is related to a deep relaxation state and REM sleep. This stage of sleep occurs after an hour and a half from the moment you fall asleep. Nevertheless, brain activity levels are high during REM, similar to those when you are awake. The theta brainwave state has to do with meditation and creativity as well.
Delta waves have the lowest frequency, between 0.1 and four hertz. These are emitted during deep, dreamless sleep when external awareness is suspended. Delta binaural beats can stimulate healing and regeneration, as well as pain relief and anti-aging.
Ultimately, gamma waves are doubtlessly the fastest, starting from thirty hertz. When the brain is in the gamma state, it can process information from different areas. Gamma waves pass the information quickly and quietly, meaning the mind must be quiet. In this brainwave state, cognition is at a high level, accompanied by peak awareness.
The above-mentioned information about brain waves brings us to a conclusion that the higher the frequency of the waves, the greater the arousal. Conversely, the lower the frequency, the deeper the state of relaxation. This is why delta binaural beats are said to aid meditation and sleep. Brainwave patterns are affected by sound waves at given frequencies, which is known as entrainment.
How do Gamma and Delta Binaural Beats Benefit Us?
Binaural beats come in various frequencies, which correspond to different brainwave states, depending on the state you wish to enter. For instance, by listening to binaural audio music in the theta range, you are likely to reduce the symptoms of mild anxiety. In the field of focus and attention, listening to gamma binaural beats is claimed to enhance attention to visual details and improve vigilance. Check out this URL, https://www.healthline.com/health/gamma-brain-waves, for a detailed explanation of the benefits of gamma waves.
Additionally, people listening to theta binaural beats are more likely to see improvements in their mood and emotional state. This type of audio music is thought to reduce tension, fatigue, and confusion. It encourages a positive mood and reduces the feeling of depression.
Both alpha and beta binaural beats bring about improvements in the field of memory. The former is claimed to improve working memory, referring to the ability of individuals to recall and retain information. The latter is touted to bring about improvements in long-term memory.
In addition, people suffering from chronic pain are recommended to listen to beats in the range of theta waves, which alter pain perception and reduce pain severity. In terms of creativity, alpha and gamma binaural beats do wonders for divergent thinking, making people more capable of coming up with multiple solutions to a particular problem.
Exposure to gamma binaural beats leads to an enhancement in cognitive flexibility after listening to such audio music for three minutes. Individuals who wish to enter a meditative state should listen to theta binaural beats. Meditation is boasted not only for inducing calmness but also for reducing inflammation, blood pressure, and pain.
Can these beats improve sleep?
Brainwave activity in the course of sleep differs from the activity when a person is awake. The only exception is the REM phase when the activity levels of the brain are virtually the same as the times when you are awake. Alpha and beta waves are dominant when a person is alert and active, whereas theta and delta waves dominate during non-REM sleep.
Nevertheless, when subjecting your brain to binaural beats, important changes happen to three hormones that influence sleep, DHEA, cortisol, and melatonin. DHEA is a vital hormone that participates in the secretion of other necessary hormones in the body. Apart from protecting you from diseases and boosting your immune system, this hormone guarantees high-quality sleep by working to suppress cortisol. After listening to such beats, individuals experience an increase in DHEA.
Another hormone that influences sleep is cortisol, which stimulates attention and alertness. The levels of cortisol are connected to circadian rhythms, rising and falling accordingly. Cortisol levels are the highest in the morning for individuals to have enough energy to be active throughout the day. Anyhow, high cortisol levels at night lead to insomnia and light sleep. After listening to binaural beats, cortisol levels are expected to drop.
Another essential hormone for sleep is melatonin, which not only promotes but also regulates sleep. The levels of melatonin rise in the evening so as to relax your mind and body before falling asleep. Exposure to such audio music has shown a dramatic increase in melatonin.
What about anxiety reduction?
As discussed previously, these beats are the right tool in the fight with anxiety, regardless of whether it’s mild or chronic. Such music is particularly useful in reducing anxiety in patients about to undergo surgery, whose levels are absolutely high. Just by listening to this music for thirty minutes a day, patients have a better chance of becoming less anxious compared to those getting no beats therapy. Besides reducing anxiety levels, patients might also experience a drop in blood pressure levels right before entering the operation room.
The bottom line
You can use delta and gamma binaural beats for meditation, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. They also have a surprisingly positive effect on the mental and physical health of individuals.
If you haven’t tried such therapy, it’s high time you did!
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.