Do Binaural Beats Work?
Does if often happen that you try to fall asleep, but no matter what you do you cannot “turn off” your brain and your mind keeps wondering?
Do you often feel anxiety and your body is under certain pressure?
If the answer is yes to one or both questions then binaural beats technique could be a good remedy for you.
You are probably wondering: “How so?”
Well, let us find out!
Binaural Beats – What is That?
Reading these words can make you think of various things – music genres, new kind of headphones or simply Beats by dr. Dre, however, none of these answers are correct.
Binaural beats are a type of sound wave therapy that is used to relieve the body from stress and anxiety, helping you relax and eventually fall asleep faster, enjoying deep sleep that your body needs.
This technique is based on a theory that says the following: If you listen to two sounds of slightly different frequencies with each ear, your brain will perceive them as one single sound that is the difference between those two frequencies.
For example, if one sound has a 320-Hz frequency and the other 310-Hz, the sound you will hear is the difference of 10-Hz.
This effect is possible because our brains have the ability to entrain themselves, or plainly said tune themselves, by synchronizing their waves with the frequencies exposed to.
By listening to low-frequency tones, brainwaves become aligned with them and slow down, allowing you to help your body and mind relax deeply.
To understand this better, let us cover the kinds of brainwaves there are.
If you are interested in this technique and would like to give it a try I find it important to familiarize ourselves with how the brainwaves work.
Every brain consists of many brain cells – neurons that communicate with each other by emitting pulses of electrical activity. This is how every single process in our brain happens – our thought generation, feelings, wishes, and other activities.
It is simply fascinating that our whole lives and actions happen thanks to our neurons’ electrical activity and through 4 types of brainwaves.
- Beta waves: When these waves are active our bodies are at a state of arousal – we are focused and able to think deeply about things, analyze them, concentrate hard, learn and make decisions. Their frequency ranges from 15 to 40Hz, and the higher it is, the more alert our body is. If you find yourself in a state of anxiety, it means that your brain is emitting waves of the frequency close to the end of the range.
- Alpha waves: Alpha waves are associated with mild relaxation and are the second “strongest” – allowing you to still be alert, but not as much as in the beta-dominant phase. They are present during meditation, your yoga class or any situation when you are focusing on calming down. Their frequency ranges between 9 and 14 Hz.
- Theta waves: These waves are present when you are in a state of deep relaxation – that is during some sleep phases. Theta waves of frequency between 5 and 8 Hz are present during your rest, as well as the next – even lower-frequency delta waves. When they are active you start to fall asleep and are on a verge of reality, and not only then, but theta-dominant phase occurs in some stages of non-REM sleep.
- Delta waves: These waves are crucial for the deepest sleep when your brain “shuts down” and the body relaxes completely. Their frequency ranges between 1.5 and 4 Hz.
Knowing this will help you understand that exposure to low-frequency beats causes your brain to adjust to it and emit low-frequency waves that halt alertness and take you to a state of deep relaxation.
Binaural Beats = Sleep Improvement
When we are awake, our brain functions a lot differently than it does when we are asleep, which is quite normal. During the awake phase, beta and alpha brainwaves are emitted and thanks to them we are alert and able to take part in daily activities. However, when we sleep, our brain is supposed to “shut down” and let the body relax and rest. This happens thanks to theta and delta waves.
When we sleep our brain goes through two phases – REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM (non-rapid eye movement). During the first one, it is still active and functions quite similarly like when we awake and running errands, while during the latter one, it “falls asleep” thanks to low-frequency theta and delta waves.
There many people, however, who can’t fall easily into the non-REM phase and who suffer from insomnia and many sleep- deprivation consequences – lack of concentration, memory problems, constant fatigue, anxiety, etc.
Binaural beat therapy combats this rather successfully (even though many more studies need to be conducted) because it helps the brain to produce low-frequency waves through the alignment with emitted sounds.
Hormones Play a Major Role
Hormones could be something you rarely think about – you know they are in your body, you can name several of them and know their roles, but probably not much more than that.
Many people do not know its “superpowers”, because hormones make us who we are, create our personality and drive our behavior. Our endocrine system is so complicated and there are still so many things we do not know, but one thing is for sure – even slightest changes in even one hormone, can impact your body in unimaginable ways.
The reason why I am saying all of this is because a small study conducted on 19 people has shown that binaural therapy causes changes in the three hormones that affect our sleep:
- DHEA – This hormone is produced by adrenaline glands and serves as a precursor hormone- the body uses it to create other hormones, such as testosterone and estradiol. In this case, the most important characteristic is that it affects the levels of cortisol – the hormone that causes alertness and is present in high-stress situations. 68% of participants have shown higher levels of DHEA after listening to binaural beats, which means this therapy helped them calm their mind and body down.
- Cortisol – It is generated in adrenal glands and serves as the main “alarm system” in our bodies. It has several major roles, but the most important one for us now is its connection to the circadian rhythm (our internal 24-hour clock better known as sleep/wake cycle), that affects the level of this hormone throughout the day.
- Melatonin – This hormone is secreted by the pineal gland and it serves to regulate the sleep-wake cycle and does it so based on your internal circadian rhythm. This means that levels of melatonin rise in the evening when your body is getting ready to sleep and falls in the morning when you wake up and get ready for daily activities.
All of this means, that binaural therapy doesn’t only affect your brainwaves, but your hormone levels as well, causing an overall relaxation and ease.
Binaural Beats and Anxiety
Today we live in a world where feeling anxiety has become so normal, just like eating, drinking and hanging out with people is. Many people go to see doctors, desperately searching for the remedy that will relax their body and mind and give them much necessary peace.
In case you find yourself in this description, there is some good news and those are that binaural therapy could help you with this issue.
There was a study conducted among highly anxious patients who were supposed to undergo surgery. Six months before the surgery, some of them listened to these beats for 30 minutes every day and some listened to plain music without binaural beats. The result was fascinating and it showed that the first group experienced much more reduced anxiety levels than the latter group.
However, please keep in mind that anxiety cannot be treated solely with binaural beats treatment and you shouldn’t stop with your prescribed treatment.
What About Your Cognitive Functions?
Several types of research have been conducted regarding binaural beats technique and its effects, and one of the effects is also improved cognitive function, along with long-term memory.
Listening to these sounds will cause your brain to produce more low-frequency brainwaves, which also improves creativity and focus.
One of the studies has shown that listening to binaural beats effects secretion of dopamine – a hormone extremely important for creative thinking.
However, it is crucial to note that the frequency of beats you listen to makes a huge difference – beta-frequency binaural beats help improve memory and on the other hand theta-frequency binaural beats affect it negatively.
Binaural therapy is still a very new field that scientists have been studying and that keeps expanding. It has shown various results, as you could see in the article, but many things remain unknown and are yet to be researched. For now, this therapy can be a helpful remedy for some individuals but can also cause no effect on others.
One thing is for sure – it is completely safe, affordable, non-invasive and easy to apply, which means there is no reason to not try it and potentially experience great benefits.