Once you start having sleep issues, they can quickly snowball into major health problems, so it is best to find anything that will help ASAP. And of course not everyone has the same problems. Some people can’t wind down when necessary, others deal with insomnia, and some sleep through the night; however it is not a restful sleep. Now that can be frustrating! Of course it doesn’t hurt to see a professional, if you have any major issues like sleep apnea than that needs dealt with immediately. However for the rest of us sleep monitors and pharmaceuticals are really overkill for our situation. One potential aid to relaxation are binaural beats. The science is still ongoing, but anecdotally we all know music and sound has a huge effect on our lives. So there are very good chances that binaural beat frequencies can provide us with some relief!
Binaural Beat Basics
Before we discuss the benefits of binaural beats, first we need to understand where they come from. There are multiple branches in physics and the one most useful to this article is acoustics. Acoustics is the study of mechanical waves like vibration, sound, infrasound, and ultrasound. These vibrations, or mechanical oscillations, are measured by how many cycles they in time (per second). This measurement is known as frequency and its units are described in Hertz (Hz). When our ears hear two very slightly different frequencies our brains perceive a “beat”. This was commonly used years ago for tuning instruments and finding harmonic intervals. As the notes got closer and closer in tune the perceived beats disappear. Now we cheat and use machines to tune so many musicians don’t know how to use this older method.
Now the binaural beat works the same way, it is a perception or auditory illusion, between two different frequencies. However to specifically be a binaural tone we have a few more parameters. It only works on two tones that are sine waves, under 1500 Hz, and no more than 40 Hz apart.
If you go over 40 Hz binaural beats cease to be heard, or at least the illusion of hearing them stops. Another factor is both tones have to be split, say with headphones in both ears. If we hear a beat when two sounds are played together it is monaural, by splitting it we get binaural. Say we play a tone that’s 500 Hz in one ear, and then we play another that’s 510 Hz in our other ear. Our brains will perceive the third tone which is the binaural beat. Of course if we play one 500 Hz and another 550 Hz, none will be heard as that crosses the 40 Hz threshold difference.
There are specific binaural beat frequencies that we use based on our own brainwaves. Not only are there mechanical vibrations all around us, our own brains create neural oscillations. These frequencies our brain creates can be labeled in the following ways;
- Gamma – at 30-50 Hz these waves are when we are very wide awake and alert.
- Beta – at 13-30 Hz the brain is still awake and aware, likely concentrating on a task. The beta and gamma waves can cause anxiety at the higher ends.
- Alpha – at 7-13 Hz we are dipping further into a relaxed state, still awake but not nearly as alert.
- Theta – at 4-7 Hz we are in deep meditation or at REM stage sleep. Using theta waves can be helpful for those looking for deep relaxation not necessarily deep sleep.
- Delta – at 1-4 Hz we reach the stage of very deep sleep and no dreaming. While REM is of course essential it is that deep rest that our body desperately needs at times. Most binaural beats are found in delta waves as this is the state most people want to achieve.
If you were to have a doctor hook an EEG up to you, it would be able to tell your alertness based on the waves your brain happened to beproducing. Our goal with binaural beats is to copy the waves that are similar to what our minds already make. And since most of us are looking for better relaxation and sleep, our interest is mostly in the alpha, theta, and especially the delta waves.
How Do Binaural Beats Work?
As mentioned, the science of all this is still being researched and verified if possible. Alternative health nonsense is everywhere in the world and we never know when to trust a healing claim. There are plenty folks out there who will gladly sell you snake oil and that just makes it hard to trust anyone. If someone makes an outlandish claim that binaural beats will absolutely cure you of your ills, well they need to do more research. The binaural beats effects are still unknown and for now the best we can do is see if they can help us.They are not just touted for healing, but you will see plenty of articles about binaural beats for creativity, focus, and energy. Again it can help but do not expect instant results or miracles.
When we play the two different binaural beats frequencies in our heads, we simply are not sure how that illusion of a third beat helps. If we play the popular delta wave of sleep, does that trick our brain into thinking it is relaxed and sleepy? Maybe. This is called entrainment when our own brain matches an outside frequency. We aren’t even sure which part of our brain perceives the binaural beats. And people of different ages and genders will be more in tune to different frequencies. Just because the science hasn’t caught up doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
While we wait for binaural beats research to catch up, we do our best to make them work for us. The general way is to create the wave that matches what we need, mostly delta, theta, and occasionally alpha waves. Below we will discuss some ways of making your own binaural beats, but if necessary, they can be found all over. It is common to add meditation music or some sort of ambient sound or nature effects to accompany the binaural beats. It is up to us to find how binaural beats work best for us; we are the lab rats. The good news (heeding the binaural beats warnings below) is that we aren’t really risking much in our study.
If you put on a pair of headphones and try listening to some delta wave sound illusions, the worst that can happen is they won’t work! It’s not going to get you digitally high, or hypnotize you, at most it is going to relax you. Which is really all we need. Assuming they don’t annoy or irritate you the likelihood of them helping is high.
If you are using binaural beats for a headache, that could be a hit or miss situation depending on many factors. Your best chances of binaural beats working is when they are used for relaxation and winding down before sleep. There is a very good chance that they require practice, like meditation they may take time to train your body. Just remember when using binaural beat therapy that you shouldn’t expect instant miracles, and that it may take time for them to show a positive effect.
Are Binaural Beats Safe?
One can’t help but wonder if there are any binaural beats warnings to be concerned about. After all not all sound we hear is safe. There are sounds too loud that can damage our hearing and we are also learning more about problems with infrasound. Infrasound is so low we can’t perceiveit, yet it affects us tremendously, many scientists think ghosts and apparitions are caused by infrasound. It may sound like a joke, but there is a lot of evidence to back it up. Infrasound is created by large machinery or in mother nature, it causes our eyeballs to vibrate ever so slightly. This in turn confuses our brains and makes them think they might be seeing frightening illusions. In most ghost sightings there is always some errant fan ventilation or natural infrasound that people don’t realize is there. (Sorry ghost believers!)
So aside from the dangers of sounds being too low or high, binaural beats are generally not a problem. Of course there are potential problems with playing them too loud or keeping headphones on too long, but those are the same problems we have with any music. Despite being mostly safe there is a group of people who some binaural beat warnings actually apply. If you are epileptic it is not advised to listen to binaural beat frequencies as they can trigger seizures. The science isn’t too clear yet, as some researchers wonder if binaural beats can help with seizures! Until science has made its mind up binaural beat frequencies should be avoided by epileptics (and children for that matter as they have developing brains).
Binaural Beat Generators
Some companies sell little audio and visual devices known as mind machines. They are goggles and headphones that you use to relax and potentially sleep. You can pick which binaural beat you want, along with other background meditative music. You can even choose visuals if you are looking for more brain stimulation instead of relaxing. These machines can really vary in price, but many are quite expensive.
There are also many binaural beat generators online to choose from. They even have apps now that are built with binaural beat software. These generators will often have presets for those who aren’t to sound savvy. If you feel you have the technical ability than try making your own binaural beats frequencies. After all you are trying out this science as much as everyone else, so have control from the very start. Some of the software can take some time to learn, but it is nothing to crazy. Some people use binaural beat software and DAWs to create complete tracks for relaxation and meditation. A DAW is a digital audio workstation used to create music, most come with basic synthesizers for ambient sound creation.
The process will work a little like this; first create the wave and binaural beatsthat suits your needs, it will likely be delta. Many generators also allow the creation of white or pink noise to accompany the beat. Once finished send the track to a DAW and add some very simple ambient or nature sound effects. You will create your own custom made binaural beat and meditation soundtrack! With skills like this your personal binaural beats research will likely give you very positive results in the long run.
So now you have the general idea of how binaural beats may be helpful for you. They can be applied to a variety of problems and health issues. Some people can use binaural beats for creativity, using alpha and theta waves to simulate that stage when the brain is in deep thought. The alpha and theta waves can also help with binaural beats for focus. Of course if your goal like most is to sleep and rest you will stick to delta wave binaural beats.
Whether using a mind machine or creating your own frequencies on binaural beat software you will be in charge of your own treatment. If you use them on a regular basis you will have a better chance of training your brain to relax more and sleep better. Just be careful of over the top medical claims, anyone who makes grand promises may be full of it. Take your time and approach binaural beats like an exercise or any other healthy habit and you will likely find great benefits!