Binaural beats are an auditory illusion created when you hear two sounds with different frequencies in each ear. People listen to binaural for many reasons: to study, boost creativity, and even feel less anxious or sad. But could binaural beats help with sleep?
When you listen to two tones of different frequencies, each in a different ear, your brain creates an additional tone known as a binaural beat.
Binaural beats synchronize with our brainwaves and alter how we think and feel.
Preliminary research suggests that binaural beats may help improve sleep.
Binaural beats offer a promising approach for dealing with conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Binaural beats are generally considered safe, but some people feel irritated or uncomfortable while listening to them.
What are binaural beats?
Binaural beats are an auditory illusion. When you hear two tones with different frequencies, one in each ear, your brain creates a third tone, which we call a binaural beat.
Binaural beats are the result of the frequency difference between the two tones. For example, if you listen to one tone at 400 Hz in one ear and another at 420 Hz in the other, you'll hear a binaural beat at 20 Hz.
So, to hear a binaural beat, the frequency of each tone must be less than 1000 Hz, and the difference between the two tones must be less than 30 Hz.
Understanding how binaural beats work
Some experts believe that binaural beats could influence how we think and feel. The theory behind this is that when you listen to binaural beats over time, your brain might sync up with the beats’ rhythms.
Research shows that binaural beats can cause changes in brainwave patterns, which could potentially impact your alertness levels.
Binaural beats and your brainwaves
Brainwaves represent electrical activity patterns occurring in the brain. They can be detected and recorded using electroencephalography (EEG).
Like any wave, brainwaves have frequency and amplitude. The frequency is measured in Hz and represents the nerve cells’ firing activity. The amplitude refers to the intensity of the wave.
There are 5 different brainwaves:
- Delta. These waves have a frequency below 4 Hz and are the slowest brainwaves. They are typically observed during deep sleep.
- Theta. Theta waves are usually associated with hypnotic states, emotions, dreams, and REM sleep. Your brain produces theta waves at frequencies between 4 and 8 Hz.
- Alpha. Alpha waves fall within the range of 8 to 13 Hz, and indicate a relaxed state of mind. Your brain generates alpha waves when you're meditating or trying to consolidate information.
- Beta. Beta waves are present when you’re awake and range between 13 and 30 Hz.
- Gamma. These are the fastest brainwaves, with a frequency range of 30 to 70 Hz. They are associated with alertness, concentration, and problem-solving.
Experts suggest that people can use binaural sounds to alter the predominant brainwave frequencies. This could lead to the generation of waves with the ability to induce relaxation, improve sleep, boost creativity, enhance memory, or alleviate pain.
Do binaural beats work for sleep?
Data on the effects of binaural beats on sleep is still limited. Yet, some early research suggests they might improve sleep quality.
A few studies propose that binaural beats could help with falling asleep and relieving insomnia symptoms. In a recent study, individuals with insomnia listened to binaural beats at 6 Hz or regular music for half an hour before bed for two weeks.
The results showed that those who listened to binaural beats experienced an increase in theta power (associated with relaxation) and a decrease in beta power (associated with alertness) compared to regular music. This suggests that binaural beats can help people feel less alert and fall asleep more easily.
Using binaural beats for sleep
For a better experience, pop on your headphones or earbuds. Make sure each ear receives its own dose of sound; otherwise, it won’t work.
Find a quiet spot where you won’t be bothered and lie down in a comfortable position. Over time, the sounds will sync up with your brainwaves and help you relax.
Other health benefits
Binaural beats can do more than help you relax. When you expose your brain to specific wave frequencies, you can shift the dominant brainwave pattern.
This technique can induce changes in mental states and offers a non-invasive approach to treating conditions like anxiety and depression.
Binaural beats are generally considered safe. Still, they can bring about some side effects.
Some listeners report feeling irritated while listening to binaural beats. Researchers suggest tracks with additional sounds, such as white noise, to prevent this discomfort.
Certain individuals might also find repetitive auditory stimulation uncomfortable, which could potentially lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
The main thing to watch out for when listening to binaural beats is the volume. Just like any sound, you should avoid excessively high volumes. Anything over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss in the long term.
Binaural beats are a method to change your mental state and address conditions like anxiety and depression without medications. These beats can help you relax and sleep better just by syncing with your brainwaves. However, some people may feel uncomfortable while listening to binaural beats. Mixing them with other tacks may help avoid these feelings. It’s also best to keep the volume in check to avoid potential hearing issues.
Can binaural beats help you sleep better?
Preliminary research suggests that binaural beats may help fall asleep and improve the overall quality of sleep.
Which binaural beats are best for sleeping?
The most effective beat frequencies for sleep are alpha, theta, and delta waves. Alpha waves (8–13 Hz) promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. Theta waves (4–8 Hz) are linked to drowsiness and meditation. Delta waves (0.5–4 Hz) are connected to deep sleep.
Can you use binaural beats for kids?
Yes, binaural beats are generally safe for kids, but ensure the volume is not too high (less than 75 decibels).
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