Our brain is made up of billions of brain cells called neurons. The combination of neurons sending signals at once, produces an enormous amount of electrical activity in the brain. These synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other produces ‘Brainwaves’. Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands describing slow, moderate and fast waves.
Brainwaves are generally broken down into five main frequencies: Beta waves, Alpha waves, Theta waves, Delta waves and Gamma waves. Not only do brainwaves vary in frequency (waves occurring within a period of time), they also vary in amplitude (the depth and height of each wave).
1. Alpha Waves
With a frequency range from 8hz – 12hz, Alpha is emitted when we are in a state of physical and mental relaxation (awake, but not processing much information). Studies show that Alpha states significantly increase beta-endorphin, noroepinephrine and dopamine.
These naturally occurring chemicals are linked to feelings of expanded mental clarity and generate an internal environment for new learning and accessing previously learned information.1
Benefits Of Alpha Waves
- Reduced anxiety
- Alleviates stress and depression
- Reduces chronic pain
- Reduction of high blood pressure
- Increases athletic performance
- Increased cerebral blood flow
- Increased motivation, energy and happiness
2. The Beta Waves
This is the brainwave for the fight-flight response. With a frequency range from 12hz – 27hz, beta waves are emitted when we are consciously alert or we feel agitated, tense and afraid. Many people lack sufficient beta activity, which can cause mental or emotional disorders such as depression and insomnia.2
Benefits Of Beta Waves
- This is the brainwave responsible for the fight-flight response.
- Improves concentration and alertness.
- Improved logic, reasoning and critical thinking.
3. Theta Brain Waves
Present in a frequency range from 3hz – 8hz, these waves offer a state of somnolence with reduced consciousness, light sleep or extreme relaxation. Theta is also a very receptive mental state that has proven useful for hypnotherapy as well as self-hypnosis using recorded affirmations and suggestions.3
Benefits Of Theta Brainwaves
- Improved physical healing
- Sleep onset and more restful sleep
- Release beneficial hormones related to health and longevity
- Reduce mental fatigue
- Reduction of anxiety and stress
4. Delta Brain Waves
Delta Brain waves are present with a frequency range from 0.2hz – 3hz . Delta waves are emitted during deep and during dreamless sleep when there is unconsciousness. Delta is the slowest band of brainwaves. You do not dream in this state and are completely unconscious.4
Benefits Of Delta Brainwaves
- The delta state releases anti-aging hormones, including melatonin and DHEA.
- Human growth hormone (HGH) is another anti-aging hormone that is increased when delta brainwaves are occurring inside the brain, due to the stimulation of the pituitary gland. HGH maintains the skin, bone density, cartilage, joints and can also help heal physical pain.
5. Gamma Brain Waves
With a frequency range from 27 Hz and up, gamma is associated with the formation of ideas, language, memory processing and various types of learning. Gamma waves have been shown to disappear during deep sleep induced by anesthesia, but return with the transition back to a wakeful state.5
Benefits of Gamma Brainwaves
- Having high levels of intelligence
- Being compassionate
- Having high amounts of self-control
- Having greater than average feelings of natural happiness
- Increased awareness through your five senses
What Happens When Brain Waves Are Out Of Balance?
When our brainwaves are out of balance, there will be corresponding problems in our emotional or neuro-physical health. Research has identified brainwave patterns associated with all sorts of emotional and neurological conditions. Over-arousal in certain brain areas is linked with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, nightmares, agitated depression, chronic nerve pain and spasticity.
Under-arousal in certain brain areas leads to some types of depression, attention deficit, chronic pain and insomnia. While instabilities in brain rhythms correlate with obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behavior, rage, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, anorexia/bulimia, diabetes, hypoglycemia and explosive behavior.6
Understanding The Benefits Of Altering Your Brainwaves
Research has shown that although one brainwave state may predominate at any given time, depending on the activity level of the individual, the remaining four brain states are present in the mix of brainwaves at all times.
Knowledge of brainwave states enhances a person’s ability to make use of the specialized characteristics of those states: these include being mentally productive across a wide range of activities, such as being intensely focused, relaxed, creative and in restful sleep.
You can thus train your brain to change brainwaves by learning meditation and relaxation techniques.7
|↑1||Ossebaard HC. Stress reduction by technology? An experimental study into the effects of brain-machines on burnout and state anxiety. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2000;25(2):93-101|
|↑2||Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2004). EEG biofeedback of low beta band components: frequency-specific effects on variables of attention and event-related brain potentials. Clinical Neurophysiology, 115(1), 131-139|
|↑3||Sabourin, M. E., Cutcomb, S. D., Crawford, H. J., & Pribram, K. (1990). EEG correlates of hypnotic susceptibility and hypnotic trance: spectral analysis and coherence. International Journal of Psycho-physiology, 10(2), 125-142.|
|↑4||Botella-Soler, V., Valderrama, M., Crépon, B., Navarro, V., & Le Van Quyen, M. (2012). Large-scale cortical dynamics of sleep slow waves. PloS one, 7(2), e30757.|
|↑5||Crone, N. E., Hao, L., Hart, J., Boatman, D., Lesser, R. P., Irizarry, R., & Gordon, B. (2001). Electrocorticographic gamma activity during word production in spoken and sign language. Neurology, 57(11), 2045-2053|
|↑7||Understanding your brainwaves – Jeffrey L. Fannin.|