If you search YouTube for binaural videos, you’ll find hours of music, usually accompanied by trippy videos claiming that you’ll align your chakras, open your third eye, and access your lucid dreaming capabilities. Also, you’ll get better sleep.
It turns out that there’s some data backing that last point up. There’s a lot of recent buzz around the benefits to listening to binaural beats while sleeping. Many believe it can improve sleep, reduce stress, even improve your cognitive function.
In a way, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. People have been using sounds in different ways to improve their sleep forever. Some listen to ASMR, others use relaxation tapes, then there are the ever popular white noise machines and apps. The right sounds can help you relax, and turn off persistent thoughts that are so infamous for keeping many of awake at night.
What Are Binaural Beats And How do They Work?
Binaural combines two things Bi which means two and aural which refers to sound. It taps into your brain to help you obtain higher level of relaxation, and ultimately better sleep.
The idea behind binaural beats is that two very similar sounds are combined, and that your brain takes those sounds and creates a new one. This new tone is the difference between the two different frequencies that you’re hearing.
In order for binaural beats to have their intended effect, you have to wear headphones. That way the two different tones are delivered properly, one to each ear. While it isn’t necessary, most binaural beats recordings also include relaxing music or other sounds. In fact, those are the only sounds you will actually hear. The tones produced by binaural beats are actually at too low of a frequency for you to perceive. In spite of this, you are still being impacted by your exposure.
People use binaural beats for sleep because it slows brain waves leading to relaxation. It reduces anxiety too. That can lead to longer, deeper sleep that is more restful.
What Are Brain Waves?
A brain wave is a measurable electrical pulse. These are created any time you think, feel, or act. Whatever you happen to be thinking, feeling, or doing at any point in time is impacting your brain waves.
There are four types of brain waves to consider when it comes to sleep. Alpha waves are commonly present in the alert, but relaxed stage. These waves are often produced when you meditate or engage in creative activities. Beta waves are high arousal brainwaves. These are fast, active waves that are produced when you are wide awake and engaged in activities that require focus and analytical skills. Too many beta waves can lead to anxiety.
Delta waves are slow waves that are highly associated with deep sleep. Unlike higher frequency alpha and beta waves, these are low frequency, and lead to relaxation. Finally, Theta waves are often produced during light sleep. Think of that half asleep half awake phase, and you’ll understand what theta waves feel like.
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In a sense, the brain tunes itself to the frequencies it hears. Low frequency sounds lead to low arousal and better sleep. However, since you cannot hear these low frequency sounds, your brain won’t perceive them from external sources. That’s where binaural beats come in. They produce the sounds that cause your brain to ‘manufacture’ the low frequency sounds to get the desired effect.
You will get the best results by picking binaural beats that will allow your brain to produce sounds in the frequency that matches your desired brain waves. For example, if you want to improve your ability to enter into a deep sleep, go for a delta wave stimulating recording. That’s one to four hz. Theta waves are compatible with REM sleep and are kicked off with four to eight hz tones. Alpha waves are in the range of eight to thirteen hz. Finally, higher frequencies are associated with high arousal beta waves. These aren’t conducive to sleep, but are useful in other ways.
Other Benefits of Binaural Beats
Not only can binaural beats help you reach a deeper sleep, it may improve some sleep related hormone levels. Specifically, it can boost melatonin production that helps you to get to sleep quickly. It also leads to less cortisol production. Finally, listening to binaural beats helps your body produce more DHEA. This hormone can suppress cortisol production, leading to lower stress levels.
Is meditation part of your sleep routine? That’s great. Meditating is proven to lead to better sleep. Binaural benefits can improve your meditation sessions, ensuring that you get even more benefit from them.
There are also studies that associate binaural beats with pain relief. If you suffer from chronic pain, you know all too well that can impact your ability to sleep. This leads to further pain and frustration.
Finally, binaural beats can greatly improve your mood. If you’re feeling depressed, angry, or fatigued, that has a huge impact on the quality and amount of sleep you get. By listening to binaural beats, you can mitigate this impact quite significantly.