Theta: This brainwave pattern is associated with deep relaxation and with some stages of sleep, including the lighter stages of non-REM (NREM) sleep. REM sleep itself is mostly composed of beta wave and other activity that’s similar to an alert, waking brain. Deep meditation produces theta waves, which are slower and lower frequency (between 5-8 hertz) than Alpha waves. That murky barrier between sleep and wakefulness, when you’re drifting in and out of sleep, and your thoughts feel dreamlike and difficult to remember? That’s a theta-dominant state of consciousness.
Until recent years, entering extraordinary states of heightened receptivity and peak performance has been attained predominantly by only a disciplined few, practicing ancient techniques such as meditation, chanting, yoga, and newly revamped versions of the mystical traditions - for example, progressive relaxation, auto-suggestion, hypnosis, and biofeedback. These techniques work. But they take long periods of practice, discipline, and sometimes a leap of faith. It is all too easy to become impatient and give up long before producing results.
The I-Doser claims it can emulate prescription drug-like effects by listening to MP3's, to get stoned. This is largely a moral panic by parents who flunked science fueled by the eternal quest by teenagers to get stoned, and stupid ones convincing their friends it works. It is really more of wishful thinking and making yourself disoriented by playing discordant sounds really damn loud. If you want to experience it yourself, you can always listen to Bjork Captain Beefheart dubstep.
Binaural beats between 1 and 30 Hz are alleged to create the same brainwave pattern that one would experience during meditation. When you listen to a sound with a certain frequency, your brain waves will synchronize with that frequency. The theory is that binaural beats can help create the frequency needed for your brain to create the same waves commonly experienced during a meditation practice. The use of binaural beats in this way is sometimes called brainwave entrainment technology.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
I wouldn’t personally recommend listening to delta wave frequencies for depression, so I’m not sure who advised you to do that? People with depression usually have a higher ratio of theta and delta wave activity, so I would normally recommend listening to high alpha wave and low beta wave frequencies, to help balance things. I have some 10Hz alpha tracks for serotonin release, which you can try for free on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NSUcuzpRcY&list=PLveg0IEcZWN6T86nhmSrdwG2kMQtcLRou. I also recommend you give these SMR (low beta wave) tracks a try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGTvBbrEwZQ&list=PLveg0IEcZWN7yaMaKr8F-eWHALk2_zGqY. I hope that helps.
So does that mean that there are certain types of brainwaves that are better? The short answer to that question is that each brainwave has a different function. During the day, you might want to produce a certain kind of brainwave more frequently or during different times and activities. That requires a certain amount of control, flexibility, and resilience.
John Dupuy is the CEO of iAwake Technologies and travels internationally to teach and inspire on the subjects of Integral Recovery, Integral Transformative Practice, and the use of brainwave entrainment technology to deepen one’s meditation practice and in the treatment of addiction, depression, and PTSD. John is the founder of Integral Recovery® and his book Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction won the 2013 USA Best Book Award. John also hosts interviews with leading innovators in the spiritual technologies field on Spiritual Technologies 2.0 Live and co-hosts the popular Journey of Integral Recovery podcast.
Sleep is something that many people take for granted, but since it takes up about one-third of our lives, it’s worth considering carefully. Besides the obvious benefit of providing time for cell regeneration and repair, eight hours of regular, sound sleep sets you up for optimal functioning of mind and body. It strengthens your immune system, improves your mood, and sharpens your alertness and powers of attention. Getting sufficient sleep lowers your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, and it makes you less susceptible to accidents.
Beta: These brainwaves are associated with high levels of alertness and arousal. When beta brainwave patterns dominate, we’re primed to focus and concentrate, to make decisions and think analytically. When you’re analyzing an issue at work, you’re probably in a beta-dominant state. Beta waves are fast, with a higher frequency (between 15-40 hertz). At the higher levels of this range, beta waves are associated with anxiety.
Despite the lack of solid evidence of the effectiveness of binaural beats in producing brainwave changes, and that those changes can be effective in altering our conscious states, there do exist hours of recorded binaural beat videos available on YouTube. Some of these are just straight beats designed to ease the listener into various states by gradually varying the frequencies of the beats. A nice example of this can be found in a 90-minute video by Jody Hatton. Others embed the beats into a musical score, which some people find easier to listen to. Spotify has a whole playlist devoted to binaural beats. You can try these and many others to see if this is something that may be helpful to you. The soothing nature of the sounds may be what really helps, but that’s fine if you just want to relax and drift off to sleep. You can also find quite a few apps that generate binaural beats at your phone’s app store. If you want to relax and sleep just be sure to set the frequency in the theta range (4 – 7 Hz). Patients have reported to me that they felt energized or even anxious after listening to a few minutes of the beats, but this was usually because they were set to a high frequency like beta (13 – 16 Hz). Be sure to try listening to the beats for a short time and if they have a negative effect, just stop listening. If you find them helpful, that’s great, and you have a new technique that can be used to promote relaxation, something most of us can use.
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.