You most likely already know that brainwave frequencies are grouped together into bands: delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. Although boundary states between these bands exist, in this article I will focus on each brainwave frequency and describe the mental states and functions associated with each group.
What Are The 5 Brainwave Frequencies
Brainwaves of a 4hz frequency or less are classed as delta waves. These are associated with deep sleep, and are thought to be generated by the thalamus (a part of the brain that integrates information from the different senses, and use it to direct attention). Most of a baby’s brain activity is in the delta range, but by adulthood delta waves are no longer present when a person is awake.
Brainwaves between 4 and 7hz are classed as theta waves. These are associated with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, during which dreaming occurs. They are generated by the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain responsible for forming memories. They also appear during meditation. Delta and theta waves together make up the brainwave frequencies which appear during sleep.
Brainwaves between 8 and 12hz are classed as alpha waves. Alpha waves appear when an individual is relaxed, and are associated with associative thinking – daydreaming, for instance – and the imagination. Closing the eyes (while awake) causes an instant surge of alpha activity.
Brainwaves between 12 and 30hz are classed as beta waves, and appear when an individual is alert and focused. They are associated with concentration, “busy thinking” and general movement. Alpha and beta waves together make up the brainwave frequencies which appear when an individual is awake. Alpha dominates when an individual is in a state of relaxation, and beta when an individual is in a state of alertness.
Brainwaves of a 40hz frequency or above are classed as gamma waves. Flashes of sudden insight or understanding (“a-ha” moments) are associated with sudden surges of gamma activity. High gamma wave activity is associated with above average intelligence, and children with high gamma activity have been found to have higher than average language abilities, cognitive skills and attention spans.
Safely Changing the Frequency of the Brain
As you fall asleep you go through several other states of consciousness, as indicated by your brainwave frequencies. First, you will slip into an Alpha state – which is also the state you are in when daydreaming or in light meditation. This happens when your brainwaves slow to eight to fourteen hertz. As you become unconscious, your brainwaves slow to four to eight hertz, which is called the Theta state. Interestingly, though most adults are asleep when in this state, some children can still be awake, and perhaps daydreaming. Experienced meditators can also remain conscious while in a Theta state.
When brain activity drops below four or five hertz, it is considered the Delta state of consciousness. Typically it is associated with deep sleep. Again, though, some experienced meditators can enter this state without falling asleep.
Changing Your Brainwave Frequencies from Low Frequency Brain Waves to High Frequency Brain Waves
Meditation is the primary way we can consciously change our brainwaves. An Alpha state can often be entered into simply by taking a deep breath or two and closing your eyes for a minute. We might consider this to be the simplest form of meditation. An Alpha state is sometimes desired for its ability to increase the creativity of our thinking. It is also very relaxing, and so used to decrease the effects of stress. We generally become more aware of what is going on in our minds as well, so it is a useful state for self observation or when using self hypnosis downloads
Meditative practices are the usual way to alter our state of mind, but there are simpler ways now. In the last several decades a number of great products have been developed that use brainwave entrainment. They are typically recordings that have beats and sounds in them which are specifically designed to slow down (or sometimes speed up) our brainwave frequencies. They are normally sold as CDs or MP3 downloads for meditation music. All you have to do is listen with headphones (they work best with your eyes closed) and you are taken into a meditative state.
Some are also sold for other purposes. For example, some claim to help you boost your creativity. There is some evidence that guiding your brain wave patterns through slower and faster phases stirs the imagination and allows for more creative ideas. Others are combined with subliminal messages, because we tend to be more open to suggestion when in a meditative state.
If you want to play with your brainwave frequencies then, whether to relax, to gain insight, to be more creative, or for whatever purpose, you have a choice. You can learn to meditate, which can take some time and effort – but is a good skill to develop in any case. Or you can buy good some brainwave entrainment recordings. The latter is the easier route.