How sound can help you to sleep better
Throughout the day, our mood, state of mind, our energy and our focus will shift and change according to what we are doing. This shift in attention is reflected in our brainwaves.
Brainwaves are synchronised electrical pulses that are created by neurons firing electrical signals to communicate with each other. Our brainwaves change according to what we are doing, thinking and feeling, the faster the neurons emit the electrical impulses the faster the frequency, alternatively the slower the neurons emit the electrical impulses the slower the frequency. When slower brain waves are dominant (alpha waves), we can feel sluggish, calm, dreamy, on the other hand when higher frequency brain waves are dominant (beta waves), we can feel very alert, stressed, wired.
Brain wave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and based on the frequency and amplitude of these brain waves they are classified into five key types of brainwaves:
Gamma – Frequency 31-100Hz is associated with high mental activity, simultaneous processing of information from different areas of the brain, it is also related to expanded consciousness and perception.
Beta – Frequency 13-30Hz is associated with heightened perception, learning, problem-solving tasks. Beta brain waves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and actively concentrating on difficult and complex tasks.
Alpha – Frequency 7-12Hz is associated with physical and mental relaxation. Alpha is the resting state of the brain when you are awake but relaxed and not processing much information. Alpha is experienced during quiet thoughts, first thing in the morning, meditative states and can be experienced during Sound Baths.
Theta – Frequency 4-8Hz is associated with creativity, insights, vivid dreams and reduced consciousness. Theta brain waves occur most often in sleep but can also occur in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to learning, it can provide insights and creativity. It is often experienced as you drift off to sleep and can also be experienced during a Sound Bath.
Delta – Frequency 0-3Hz is associated with sleep and dreaming states. It is in this state your brain rewires.
We can drift unknowingly into various brain wave states throughout the day, but what’s important is to try and drop into a Theta or Delta state when going to sleep to ensure your body and mind get a good night’s rest.
Many people struggle with sleep and it’s not surprising given our lifestyles. Looking at a computer or a TV screen after dark can stimulate the brain into thinking it’s daylight which can cause us sleep difficulties. When we were hunters and gatherers, living our lives by the natural cycles of nature, we would wake at sunrise and sleep after dark allowing our bodies to fully restore themselves overnight. When we sleep well our muscles repair and we release hormones that regulate growth and appetite. When we force ourselves to stay up late, or wake up very early our bodies fall out of their natural circadian rhythm and therefore we may either struggle to get to sleep or struggle to wake up in the morning.
There are various ways you can support your sleep and access different brain states. Whilst there are many methods out there, below we will explain what binaural beats are and how they can help you with your sleep.
WHAT ARE BINAURAL BEATS?
Binaural beats are a type of auditory illusion that is created in your brain by listening to two tones of similar frequency at the same time. The word binaural means having or relating to both ears and it was first discovered by Prussian physicist and meteorologist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.
The convergence happens inside the brain and is caused by a physiological response when hearing two tones of different frequencies heard simultaneously, usually from the left and right ears using headphones or in the case of Alchemy Crystal Singing Bowls, when two bowls of the same note with a difference in frequency are being played. Here, the mathematical difference between the tones makes the brain perceive it as a third, single and new frequency different from the other two tones.
The brain, upon hearing this third frequency, follows along and produces brain waves at the rate of that frequency. For example, if you are listening to 260Hz tone in your left ear and a 270Hz tone in your right ear, you will hear a binaural beat that pulses at a frequency of 10Hz, in this case it would be an Alpha wave and could support you with relaxation or meditation.
HOW CAN BINAURAL BEATS HELP IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP?
Let’s talk about how you can use Binaural beats to increase the quality of your sleep.
It is possible to change how we perceive these different brain waves through training, as with any process that changes your perception will change your brainwaves. Binaural beats are ideal for such training as they have the capacity to reduce states of anxiety, increase relaxation, reduce inflammation and much more. Listening to binaural beats consistently and regularly before going to sleep can train your brain to enter the wavelength you are targeting, in the case of sleep, Theta or Delta waves.
Research has shown that listening to low-frequency tones can trigger a slowdown in brain activity that will aid relaxation and sleep. Listening to binaural beats for 10 to 20 minutes will help shift your brain from a conscious state (Beta State or high Beta state) to a more relaxed state such as the Theta or Delta states that are associated with deep sleep. Along with a healthy diet, if you combine binaural beats with a daily meditation practice, you can increase their combined potential benefits and effectiveness.
Listening to binaural beats can not only positively affect your sleep but can also contribute positive effects on reducing stress, it can increase levels of creativity by eliminating stress and pressure from the mind. It can also reduce inflammation by reducing your cortisol levels, and can aid towards mental clarity by calming the mind. Some people may experience difficulties meditating, binaural beats can be a very useful tool for this to help you enter into a meditative state by entraining the mind to access a space of relaxation faster and helping you to access and stay in the present moment.
BINAURAL SOUND RESOURCES
The good news is there are many good quality and free binaural beat recordings available online.
When listening to binaural beats we recommend wearing headphones, closing your eyes and lying or sitting down in a relaxed, comfortable position. Below we have some recommendations of binaural beats you can explore for yourself.
As we mentioned earlier, there are different types of binaural beats that support each desired brain state depending on the frequency (Hz) – sleep, relaxation, better focus and concentration and help with meditation. So if you want help to focus or concentrate during the daytime search in YouTube ‘binaural beats for concentration’ or equally ‘binaural beats for anxiety’ depending on what you are looking for.
Experiencing binaural beats during a Sound Bath created by the Alchemy Crystal Singing Bowls can also have powerful effects. At present (throughout COVID-19) all of our events are online-based and available for all. If you’d like to experience the effects of binaural beats and improve your sleep check out our upcoming offerings here.
Kate Stewart is a Reiki and Sound Practitioner. Kate’s personal journey of practising meditation, movement, breathwork, shamanic work and yoga helped her to overcome anxiety that she’d lived with from the age of 11. She has since made it her purpose to support and share these gifts with others.