If you're looking to achieve total relaxation, lower your stress, manage anxiety, enjoy better quality sleep or even ramp up your focus, it might be time to drop the beat — binaural beats, that is. These aren't the sort of sounds you're likely to hear in the club, though. In fact, when done right you won't hear any discernible beat at all.
"Binaural beats combine two slightly different sound frequencies to create the perception of a single frequency tone. When each ear is exposed to two different frequencies at the same time (one in each ear) the brain actually hears a single tone that is the difference between two separate frequencies, and your brain tunes into this new frequency," says Melissa Gentry, life coach and CEO of Healing the Love via email. "For example, if you listen to a 290-hertz tone in your right ear and 300-hertz in your left ear your brain will actually absorb a 10-hertz tone."
"That's a very low-frequency sound wave — one you can't actually hear," adds sleep specialist and clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Breus in an email. "But you don't need to hear the sound for your brain to be affected by it."
The idea is that the sound waves inspire neurons in the brain to begin firing at that same beat, helping people to achieve a specific goal. There are five categories of sound frequency patterns that allegedly do different things:
- Delta pattern: Beat at a frequency of 0.5 to 4 hertz. This beat is intended to produce deep, dreamless sleep.
- Theta pattern: The 4 to 7 hertz frequency associated with theta patterns are designed to help with the quality of meditation, REM sleep and creativity.
- Alpha pattern: Believed to improve relaxation, this pattern is set at a frequency of 7 to 13 hertz.
- Beta pattern: This pattern can actually increase alertness and improve concentration, but if done too intensely can cause anxiety. Beta pattern beats are done at 13 to 30 hertz.
- Gamma pattern: Gamma pattern beats fall in a range of 30 to 50 hertz, and are associated with maintaining arousal during wakeful periods.
"Each of these frequencies has a different effect on our brain, therefore one should listen to the frequency range that corresponds to their desired result," says Gentry.