Alpha brain waves are very common to people who meditate and those that are involved in activities that promote the state of relaxed wakefulness.
The discovery of alpha waves along with the other types of brain waves have helped us learn to improve our mind and lives at large.
Here we take a deep look into alpha brain waves and the part they play in our lives.
What Are Alpha Brain Waves
Alpha brain waves are the brain waves that are in high production when you are in a state of wakeful rest (1).
When you are just waking up, before you immerse yourself into the tasks and worries of the day, you brain is usually in this state.
During this time, you are awake but you are not involved in any activities, nor do you have deep thoughts. You are simply at ease.
The alpha brain waves are also evident when you have just finished a task and you are going to take a rest or when you are taking a random walk in the park or the woods to meditate (2).
Alpha brain waves are one of the 5 types of brain wave patterns seen when the brain is studied through EEG machine.
When measured, the alpha brain waves are seen to have a frequency ranging from 8 Hertz to 15 Hertz.
Hertz is the standard unit that counts cycles per second.
Experienced monks that have done meditation for years have been found to have these brain waves.
Deeper Understanding of Alpha Brain Waves
Alpha brain waves are seen through an EEG machine. EEG (Electroencephalogram) is a test that is carried out to study, understand and analyze the electrical activity in your brain.
When neurons communicate in your brain, there is electrical activity that is produced and is measured through the EEG.
The EEG is also used to detect any sleep disorders, brain disorders and analyze the risk of seizures.
When the test is being done, tiny metal electrodes are placed on your head (specifically on the scalp) and the electrodes are connected to a screen through wires.
Electrodes are metal discs that help with reading the brainwave activity in your brain.
The measurements are transmitted from the electrodes through the wires and you get to see the readings on a screen.
Brainwave activity is normally seen on the screen as wavy lines that run horizontally across the screen.
The wavy lines and the patterns (the types of waves) they form represent the mental state you are in.
Here are the 5 brainwave patterns, their frequencies and the mental states they represent:
1. Delta brainwave pattern – it has a frequency of less than 4 Hertz. This pattern is linked to deep dreamless sleep and relaxation.
2. Theta brainwave pattern – It has a frequency of between 4 Hertz to 7 Hertz. The pattern is associated with meditation, creativity, relaxation and light sleep.
3. Alpha brainwave pattern – This is where you see the alpha brain waves. It is located in the middle of the 5 patterns and has a frequency of between 8 Hertz to 15 Hertz. It is linked to a relaxed wakefulness state, which is also referred to as the meditative state. When you begin to meditate, this pattern is formed on your brain.
4. Beta brainwave pattern – Its frequency is between 16 Hertz to 31 Hertz and it is associated with concentration, alertness and focus.
5. Gamma brainwave pattern – This pattern comes at a frequency of between 32 Hertz and 50 Hertz. Experts believe it is linked to sharp focus, productivity and concentration.
Alpha brain waves are seen as wavy lines that move in a more moderate speed compared to delta brain waves, gamma brain waves, theta brain waves and beta brain waves.
Benefits of Alpha Brain Waves
Alpha brain waves are known to bring about many advantages. And when you brain is producing these waves, you get to enjoy various benefits.
Reduced levels of anxiety is one of them. As said, alpha waves occur when you are in a state of rest and free from demanding tasks.
Meditation practice also increases these waves in your brain which allow you to release tension and anxiety, and get to relax (5).
It is also believed that theta and alpha waves help you get into “the flow” state where you become so immersed in an activity that you lose track of time and keep working on it with energy and passion (9).
How to Increase The Alpha Brain Waves in Your Brain
It may be possible for you to increase alpha brain waves through personal effort and also with the help of technology. Here are the 3 main ways you can do that:
When you sit down to meditate, you are pretty much aiming towards getting into the restful state. And when you start to meditate, you enter a state of calmness, relaxation and wakefulness which is brought about by the alpha waves.
Also, working with concentration and mindfulness techniques and practices including mindfulness meditation have proven useful. Studies have revealed that meditation has an effect on alpha and theta brain waves (10)(11)(12).
2. Brainwave Entrainment
Brainwave entrainment uses external stimuli such as sound and light to influence certain mental states. When you listen to soundtrack that have been made using brainwave entrainment sound frequencies for different mental states, your brain is able to detect these frequencies and align itself with them (13).
This results to a shift into new mental states that match the frequencies coming from the soundtracks.
Making use of brainwave entrainment programs for relaxation and meditation that use alpha brainwave patterns can help you increase the alpha brain waves in your brain.
Neurofeedback is also a great way to improve the domination of alpha waves in your brain. Neurofeedback is like biofeedback for the brain.
Here, you get to see the electrical activity happening in your brain in real time and make adjustments to it and see how the changes affect your brain and you as a person.
A recent study showed that neurofeedback may help alter the electrical activity and boost the alpha and theta brain waves (14).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) on Alpha Brain Waves
Question: Why can’t we maintain the alpha brain waves for long?
Answer: The brain is always producing different brain waves and the dominating brain waves depend on you and the activities you are doing. For the alpha waves to persist, you have to be in a state of relaxation and wakefulness, the meditative state.
Unless you train your mind to be in this state through meditation, neurofeedback or brainwave entrainment among other available techniques, it is hard to remain it.
Question: What happens when the alpha brain waves are disrupted?
Answer: When your alpha waves are disturbed, you become restless and uneasy. Your peace and level of calmness are also negatively affected. This weighs you down in the long run.
Essentially, Alpha waves are great when you want to be calm, alert and relaxed.
Engaging in activities such as meditation, restful awareness, body scan and other mindfulness practices helps boost these brain waves.
You can also use brainwave entrainment programs to help form the alpha brain wave patterns much faster using sound frequencies.
Any time your alpha waves are in control, you will notice that your anxiety levels are down and you feel more at ease, calm and mentally clear.