Technology is slowly taking over the world and the mental health industry has not been left behind. There have been many technological advancements in the industry that have helped us get more convenient and easy to work with ways to improve the power and performance of our brains.
Among these advancements is brainwave entrainment that has been said to influence our states of mind and help us function better in various situations.
This is a beginner’s guide for brainwave entrainment for anyone who desires to know it better.
What is Brainwave Entrainment?
Brainwave entrainment is the process of using external stimuli to induce certain states of the brain such as happiness, relaxation, sleep, focus and productivity.
It is commonly used by people who struggle with different discouraging states, health issues and low moods to help them bring about better states within them that can change their entire attitude and improve the way they go about their day.
The external stimulus used to induce the mental states can be aural or audio based for you to listen to, or physical using vibrations on a nerve or muscle or visual where lights are used (1).
These stimulations make use of the brains ability to respond to external stimuli. The brain waves in our brains are able to detect stimulation from the outside and align themselves with it which changes our states of mind.
This concept of the brain is known as “Frequency following response”.
The most popular type of stimulation for the brain is the aural type, where people listen to an audio or recordings that have been created with sound frequencies that are meant to influence different mental states.
Isochronic tones, monaural beats and binaural beats are the most preferred ways to work with the brain waves to improve our mental states.
By simply listening to these frequencies, you get to shift from lost focus and concentration, sleeplessness, laziness and uneasiness to deep relaxation, sharp focus and concentration, feeling energized and sleepiness.
There are varying opinions on when brainwave entrainment was first discovered. Some experts say that it was first discovered in the 1600’s while others say it was in the 1930’s.
Although there are no accurate dates for its identification, it is believed that its effects had been noted long before, during Ptolemy.
How Brainwave Entrainment Works
To better understand how brainwave entrainment works, we need to look at how the brain works.
Inside the brain, brain cells are constantly communicating to each other and this brings about electrical activity. These activities can be seen under an EEG (electroencephalography) machine in the form of brainwave patterns.
Brain studies reveal that there are 5 different brain wave patterns seen with the help of the machine. And these patterns are associated with different states of consciousness (2).
1. Gamma brain wave pattern – The frequency for this pattern is from 30Hz (Hertz) to 50Hz. Although not much is known about it, experts believe it is associated with concentration, sharp focus and productivity.
2. Beta brain wave pattern – The frequency for this pattern is from 14Hz to 30Hz. It is associated with alertness, focus and concentration. This pattern is usually very common during the day. Although, it shouldn’t persist as that leads to anxiety and stress.
3. Alpha brain wave pattern – The frequency for this pattern is from 8Hz to 13Hz. It is linked to light meditation and it induces a state of calmness and alertness. You get into the meditative state where you are relaxed but still wakeful.
4. Theta brain wave pattern – The frequency for this pattern is from 4Hz to 7Hz. It is linked to creativity, relaxation, meditation and light sleep with REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
5. Delta brain wave pattern – The frequency for this pattern is less than 4Hz. It is linked to relaxation as well as deep sleep without dreams.
When using the aural method of entrainment, you listen to sound frequencies that are known to induce the kind of mental states you desire to get into.
If you would like to become relaxed and creative, you would have to listen to sound frequencies which bring the theta brain wave pattern that play from 4Hz to 7Hz.
The same case goes for the other states of mind listed above.
It is also important to note that there are different methods of brainwave entrainment. Here’s a few of them:
1. Audio Entrainment
This is a type of brainwave entrainment that embeds the brainwave frequencies for various brain states to different sounds and audios such as nature sounds, instrumentals and music soundtracks.
* Monaural beats – Monaural tones are the tones heard when you bring together two tones that have the same frequency and listen to them through one or two ears. It is possible to listen to these tones through the speaker without necessarily having to use headphones.
* Binaural beats – Binaural beats come about when you play tones with different frequencies in each ear separately. Since the frequency in each ear is not the same, the frequency difference of the two tones is perceived as another beat by your brain. You have to use headphones for binaural beats as you get different frequencies unlike monaural beats.
* Isochronic tones – Isochronic tones are tones that can be compared to pulses or heartbeats. They are single tones that play like heartbeats. They are designed to play at intervals – spaced out and even intervals.
2. Audio Visual Entrainment
This is a method of entrainment that uses the audio entrainment with the extra help of visual enhancements. Flashes of light are used together with beats and tones to help induce certain brain states.
It uses computer screens or diodes that flash light in about the same time as the beats to help lead your brain into various brain wave patterns.
The audio-visual entrainment is believed to be quite powerful than the audio entrainment alone and therefore you are advised to use it with caution.
Benefits of Brainwave Entrainment
Although brainwave entrainment is still under research, the few studies on it have shown to be very promising as a tool for brain and health improvement.
Research studies have shown that it improves the power of the brain in different ways. Its benefits are mostly compared to the benefits that meditation practice brings as it helps with the same but at a faster rate (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13).
The benefits reported with use of brainwave entrainment include:
1. Increased relaxation
2. Reduction in anxiety
3. Migraine and pain relief
4. Healing through increase of the growth hormone
5. Increased alertness and athletic performance
6. Improved concentration and motivation
7. Increased creativity
8. Improved moods
9. Better sleep
10. Enhanced memory
Some people have also said that it helped with other health issues such as hypertension, bringing premenstrual relief, blood pressure and insomnia.
Caution When Using Brainwave Entrainment
Due to its ability to alter brain states, it is encouraged that you use brainwave entrainment products with carefulness. Although it has helped many people with health issues, it has also caused some negative effects on others.
We all react differently to brainwave entrainment as well as other things including medication. That is why it is very important to know how well it works for you by using it in the recommended way.
If you are in the following categories, experts recommend that you use them with an approval from an appropriate physician or refrain from them completely for your health’s sake.
* People who are under 18 years
* People who are epileptic to avoid triggering seizures
* People who intend to use brainwave entrainment productive when driving or operating serious machines
* People who have brain injuries
* People who are under the influence of medication or drugs
* People who are wearing a pacemaker
* People who are photosensitive
* People who are prone to seizures
* People who have serious mental illnesses
* Pregnant women
* People who are in doubt about their health
How to Use Brainwave Entrainment
To get started with brainwave entrainment, you first have to determine the kind of benefits you wish to get from it. After that, you should decide which method of entrainment you want to go with.
Once you are done with the two steps, you should now look for the provisions that your chosen method offers and start using it.
Audio entrainment programs for different brain states can be found online. You can search and get a variety of programs that offer brainwave entrainment for one or many states.
Feel free to experiment with them and determine which is your right fit and keep at it.
It is worth noting that the experiences and results with these programs, as with any other products out there, vary with the people using them.
There are some people who will get really good results, some will get moderate results and others, no results at all.
You have to find what works for you individually.
Results also take time and you need to be patient to see results. Give the audios time to work on your brain on the aspects you desire to get better at (14).
As you use these programs, be sure to make use of them with moderation. Start small and increase the usage with time and as you get used to them to avoid over stimulation that may cause uneasiness and discomfort.
In case you feel any discomfort, stop using them for a few days and you will feel well. If it persists, seek medical attention.
There are programs that go a few minutes and others take 30 minutes to an hour per session.
If you will use the longer programs, make sure you use one program at a time. Don’t use many of them all at once or you may dilute the results.
For the sleep programs, use them only to deal with occasional sleeplessness. If you have other sleeping issues, it would be good if you visited a health care expert for further check up.
You can also do binaural beats meditation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) on Brainwave Entrainment
Question: Is brainwave entrainment safe?
Answer: Brainwave entrainment is a safe way to induce positive brain states and improve your brain provided you use it safely and follow the precautions given on it.
Question: For how long should you listen to brainwave entrainment audios?
Answer: It depends on the program you are using and how long it takes. As a matter of caution, it is always good practice to start small. If you have the option of using it for a few minutes, start with that. Then increase the amount of time you listen to it as the days and weeks go by and as you start feeling comfortable with it. Also, you should begin with listening to it once a day and then twice a day after a good while.
Question: For how long do the effects of brainwave entrainment last?
Answer: It depends on many factors including the type of brainwave entrainment program you are using and what you do after listening to the audios. Most often the audios give you a temporary effect that may last for a few minutes, even after you are done listening to them. Others are created like a brain training course that trains your brain. These tend to have a longer effect than the short term ones.
Essentially, brainwave entrainment is a way for you to better enhance your mental states for the better. If you want to meditate better but can’t seem to relax, focus or remain wakeful, you can use brainwave entrainment programs for meditation.
The same case applies to other mental states such as productivity, sleep, pure relaxation, concentration, focus and others.
If you feel brainwave entrainment could be your best match, we encourage you to look through the available programs out there and give them a try.