You’ve heard me talk before about how sound can make a difference to sleep. Patients often tell me that they fall asleep to relaxing music, they seem to find it really helps them let go of active thoughts and quiet their mind—which, like yours probably does, tends to race from one thing to the next all day long (aka I can’t turn off my brain syndrome).
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I have discussed these findings with my sister, and two nice which are professionals in the fields of psychology, and medicine respectively (my sister and older nice have vast experience on the psychology arena, and my younger nice is a pediatrician), and they all agree this therapy can be of a great benefit applied in conjunction with traditional self-improvement programs.
Do note the pre-sets slightly below to the right. Remember: Delta is for deep sleep. Theta is associated with dreaminess. Alpha is a blank or relaxed state of mind and Beta is when you’re active. Try to clear your mind of any thoughts and expectations, and set the volume to an acceptable level. You can play around, but try to give a minute or two for your state of choice. At first glance, you’d think this sounds like an alien spaceship, if not a microwave or a washing machine. Whatever it sounds like to you, if you give it an open mind you will notice there is something weird about this after all. Hopefully, your chosen frequency will have guided you towards the intended effect!
How does brainwave entrainment work? Consistent, precisely engineered audio frequencies in the form of binaural beats cause the brain’s frequencies to match the stimulus. Your brain perceives two beats with slightly different frequencies (which are inaudible to the ear) through your headphones. It takes the difference between the two, and matches its own frequency to it. This is called the “frequency following” response.
Binaural beats work by playing a different tone in each ear, and in the process the brain creates a “phantom tone” which is the difference between the two tones (for example if you play a 300 hz tone in one ear and a 310 hz in the other ear the brain will produce a 10 Hz phantom tone.) If this phantom tone is 10 hz the brain will gradually be led to a dominant brainwave frequency of 10 hz (this has been measured by EEG devices). If the tone is 7 hz the brain will gradually be led to a 7 hz dominant frequency, and so on.
There is a solution, which, although you may not have heard about it, has been around (and scientifically tested!) for decades now. By using binaural beats, you can ease your brain from its active state into a more restful state simply by listening to a different frequency wavelengths of sound in each ear. Because two different wavelengths are entering through two different entrances (your ears), that difference is perceived as a “beat” (though it may sound like a warble to some) that resonates at the frequency equal to the difference. The brain will entrain (match) itself to the beat produced by the difference in wavelengths. If the difference between the two wavelengths is less than seven hertz, your brain will fall into a state of deep relaxation, also known at the theta range.
Newberg found that certain areas of the brain were altered during deep meditation. Predictably, these included areas in the front of the brain that are involved in concentration. But Newberg also found decreased activity in the parietal lobe, one of the parts of the brain that helps orient a person in three-dimensional space. "When people have spiritual experiences they feel they become one with the universe and lose their sense of self," he said. "We think that may be because of what is happening in that area if you block that area you lose that boundary between the self and the rest of the world. In doing so you ultimately wind up in a universal state."
A binaureal beat is created by playing a different tone in each ear, and the interference pattern between the slightly differing frequencies creates the illusion of a beat. It's intended to be heard through headphones, so there's no cross-channel bleed across both ears. Listen to this, I'll play a simple binaural beat, and I'll slide the pan control back and forth from one ear to the other. You can see that there isn't actually any beat, it's just an acoustic illusion: