Binaural beats are an auditory illusion and mechanic of brain entrainment. They have become an increasingly popular form of soundwave therapy many are turning to in hopes of improving sleep and creativity, as well as easing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some people even call binaural beats “digital drugs,” due to their inducing enlightenment-like states. But what exactly are binaural beats? And can they really improve our brain health?
Brainwaves + States of Consciousness
Before diving into binaural beats and effects on the brain, you will need to know a little bit about brain waves and what they indicate about our state of consciousness, emotion, and mental activity. Brainwaves are created from the pulses of electrical activity our neurons exhibit as they communicate with each other. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all expressed through this constant neural communication—so our brainwaves are associated with how we feel and what we can do at any given moment.
Peak awakeness, Transcendental State; Focused, Concentration, Cognitive Enhancement
Awake, Alert and Active State; The Only State Where Negative Emotions And Pain Are Experienced
Intuitive, “Flow State”; Learning, Categorizing, Organizing, And Storing Information; Calm And Restful
Early Sleep, “Super Consciousness”; Creative, Inventive, Problem Solving, Meditative
Deep Sleep, Dreaming State; Restorative, Healing, Pain Relief, Anti-aging
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So, what exactly are binaural beats?
Put simply, when two tones, separated by only a few Hertz in frequency, are introduced — one in each ear — the brain perceives a third, unique tone. Binaural beats create this phantom frequency, which the brain then mimics. For example, if you play a 220 Hz carrier tone in your left ear and a 226.5 Hz carrier tone in your right, your brain perceives the difference between the two. This subtle beat frequency (6.5 Hz) is the same frequency associated with deep, meditative states.
To reap the benefits of the peculiar beats at the center of this audio illusion, you’ll need to use a good headset to drown out any intrusive sound. Then, when each ear picks up a slightly different pitch, the brain will compensate by finding a frequency somewhere in the middle. This synchronizes your brainwaves to the variance in Hz and induces altered states of consciousness, like the ones described above.
Intrigued by these phantom, brain-bending sounds? Let’s dive deeper into the research surrounding binaural beats and their purported benefits.
Binaural Beats Benefits + Research
1) Deepen Your Meditation Practice
Meditation is to our minds what physical exercise is to our bodies. It helps train our brains to become more aware, observant, relaxed, and focused. When you practice meditation, you experience several health benefits including greater calm, reduced stress, better sleep, and even increased empathy and compassion.
Meditation doesn’t come easily for everyone, however. In such a rapidly-paced world, our minds are constantly being constantly bombarded by an overload of negative information, causing them to be hyperactive and in a heightened state most of the time. Binaural beats help people achieve the same type of low brainwave frequency found with meditative states. And regardless of which form of meditation you are practicing, binaural beats can help you reach a heightened level of awareness faster.
One study showed that participants who listened to 30 min of theta (6 Hz) binaural beats had an easier time entering a deep meditative state. Our BrainTap™ sessions utilize binaural beats, along with other scientifically-proven modalities, to provide your mind and body with all of the benefits of meditation — without the disciplined effort and heavy time commitment.
2) Sleep Deeper
There’s a widely-believed misconception that our brains shut down while we sleep, when, in fact, our brains are active in similar ways as when we are awake. During non-REM sleep, alpha and beta waves, typically experienced when you are active and alert, are less dominant. Instead, theta waves come to the forefront of brainwave activity.
One study used binaural beats in the theta frequency, or the frequency at which brain activity is entrained during non-REM sleep. In addition, they used Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) sounds as sensory stimuli to trigger relaxation. Researchers concluded that the combination of the two could induce the brain with the signals required for sleep, while also keeping the person in a comfortable, mental state. An additional small study of 15 participants found that perceived sleep quality improved while listening to binaural beats in the theta range.
3) Reduce Your Anxiety and Stress Levels
Stress is part of human nature, but sometimes it can be a struggle to keep our stress levels under control. As seen above, binaural beats aid meditation, a practice well-known for helping us relax and destress.
In one study, researchers had participants exercise for 20 minutes. Post-exercise, one group listened to binaural beats in the theta frequency in a quiet, low-light environment. At the same time, another group listened to placebo tones. Researchers monitored activity in the parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) and sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous systems of both groups. The binaural beats group experienced an increase in parasympathetic activity, reporting higher levels of relaxation. In a different small study of 15 people, those who listened to binaural beats in the theta frequency range (3-8 Hz) for 30-minutes experienced reduced symptoms of mild anxiety.
4) Improve Your Focus & Concentration
If you are looking to reign in your scattered mind and increase your concentration for work or school, binaural beats could be a good option. Researchers from the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition and the University of Greifswald Greifswald investigated whether binaural beats could have an impact on cognitive performance. They discovered that binaural beats in the Gamma brainwave frequency could increase cognitive flexibility, a key component in concentration.
In a small study of 36 people, those who listened to just 3 minutes of gamma (40 Hz) binaural beats had enhanced attention to specific visual details. Similarly, people who listened to 30 min of beta (16-24 Hz) binaural beats had better-sustained attention and vigilance. Also, one pilot study with 20 students with ADHD found that those who listened to binaural beats regularly for 3 weeks self-reported improvements in attention.
5) Lift Your Mood and Balance Emotions
Our mood is mostly dependent on external factors. For instance, an argument with a partner or loved one can leave you frustrated and upset – hence, the bad mood. Several studies have sought to regulate mood with binaural beats. In one study, participants listened to binaural beats daily over 60 days at delta frequencies or once for 30 minutes at a theta frequency. They were giving a mood states questionnaire containing six subscales: Tension–Anxiety, Depression–Dejection, Fatigue–Inertia, Anger–Hostility, Vigor–Activity, and Confusion–Bewilderment. By the end of the study, participants reported an overall decrease in disturbance, tension, anxiety, confusion, and fatigue. Additionally, there was an increase in self-reported quality of life, demonstrating the positive benefits of binaural beats for wellbeing.
In a different small study, participants who listened to 30 min of theta (7 Hz) binaural beats reported less daily tension, confusion, and fatigue. After listening to beta (16 and 24 Hz) binaural beats, 29 participants felt a more positive mood and reduced feelings of depression.
Whether you need to get in the right headspace for learning and taking in new information, are in need of deeper sleep or meditation, or just need to reach a relaxed state of calm – a few minutes of binaural beats can be a very helpful tool on your path to a healthier mind. By selecting binaural beat sessions based on the brainwave state you hope to achieve, you could usher in significant changes to your brain health. Our premier app, BrainTap™, takes all the guesswork out of brain entrainment. We’ve carefully curated our own exclusive packages that help you get better sleep, gain mental clarity and reduce your stress levels – among many other health benefits. Our unique sessions utilize binaural beats, along with several other scientifically-backed modalities to relax, reboot, and revitalize your mind so you can reach your peak potential. Check out our exclusive products today.