Brainwave Entrainment is an assisted form of meditation using pulses of sound. Entrainment is a process of synchronizing two different beats to become harmonious. Brainwave entrainment works by pulsing a different sound in each ear to stimulate the brain into altered states of consciousness. Examples including Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones, which are best experienced with headphones to assist with relaxation, deep sleep and focus.
Brain Wave Entrainment is any procedure that causes one's brainwave frequencies to synchronize with a periodic stimulus (sound, vibration or light) having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state (for example, to induce a trance, dreams, sleep or relaxation.) It is also called the Flicker-response because of how staring at a campfire or the flickering of a burning candle can lull you into a state of calmness and serenity. There was an extensive article on this phenomenon by Gerard Oster in Scientific American in 1973. It may sound novel, but in many ways, this is old tech.
To fall asleep we need to go from our normal waking state, to a relaxed theta, and then finally all the way to delta. Binaural beats are a scientifically proven way to speed up this process, so you get to the delta state quicker and as a result fall asleep faster. For more about the science of binaural beats, have a read of the article Fall Asleep Fast With Binaural Beats.
OK – so some of this is pretty common marketing hype. Consumers have become almost numb to such hyperbole. But still we see some of the common – almost ubiquitous – elements of pseudoscientific scams. The company claims that the device is “effort-free”, that the results are “rapid and long-lasting,” that it is the “most effective” method of its kind, and that it is useful for a broad range of applications (hey, why limit the market). I am used to such hype about dishwashing detergent, but find it intolerable when applied to a pseudoscientific device with medical applications.
Anapanasati (Buddhist breathing meditation) Buddhist meditation Christian meditation Taoist meditation Dancemeditation Dhyāna (Buddhist meditation) Dhyāna (Hindu meditation) Islamic meditation Jain meditation Jewish meditation Muraqabah (Sufi meditation) New Age meditation Naam Japo (Sikism meditation) Neigong Pranayama (yoga breathing practice) Qigong Shikantaza (Zen Buddhist seated meditation) Silva Method Tantra Transcendental meditation (TM) Vipassanā (Silent meditation) Yoga Zazen (Zen Buddhist seated meditation) Zhan zhuang (Qigong standing meditation) 5Rhythms
A popular opinion in the brainwave entrainment community is that listening to isochronic tones without music produces a much stronger effect. However, in the study by Doherty, Cormac. “A comparison of alpha brainwave entrainment, with and without musical accompaniment” (2014), it was concluded that brainwave entrainment was equally effective for isochronic tones, both with and without music.
Cortisol is an arousal hormone, stimulating alertness and attention. Cortisol levels rise and fall in connection to circadian rhythms—cortisol levels rise to their peak levels first thing in the morning, just in time for you to be active for the day. Too-high cortisol levels are associated with insomnia, as well as more time spent in light sleep, rather than deep sleep.
With regard to listening without headphones specifically, you might find it irritating if you are someone who suffers from motion sickness, depending on how the track is created. If you were listening to binaural beats, they really need headphones to work properly. If you are in a room and closer to one speaker you may not even hear binaural beats properly, and if sitting off centre in the room generally, that may have unsettled you if you have motion sickness as the tones try to form a beat in your head. If it was just a standard isochronic tones theta track that shouldn’t be irritating if you have motion sickness.
Today we're going to put on our headphones, kick back in the beanbag, and get mellow to the soothing sounds of the latest digital drug: binaural beats. These computer generated sound files are said to massage your brain and produce all sorts of effects, everything from psychedelic experiences to behavior modification. Let's point our skeptical eye at the science of binaural beats, and especially at some of the claims made for them.