According to countless Productivity Gurus, the ability to control our ‘state’ is one of the key components of success and emotional maturity. There are countless ways that humans manipulate or alter their states – some use exercise, food, sex, alcohol or drugs, and meditation. Some of these tools of state management are more conducive to a healthy lifestyle than others.
Imagine if I was to tell you there was a ‘not-so-new’ but lesser known yet effective technology that can help you achieve your desired state? I know I was certainly interested when I first heard about it! This technology harnesses the power of sound to help you tap into your creative faculties, relax deeply and sleep better, motivate yourself to exercise, or focus and concentrate better. Whatever it is you want to accomplish, harnessing the power of Brainwave Entrainment helps you consciously adjust your mood or state of mind to achieve your goals!
This all sounds too good to be true!
I was introduced to the concept of Brainwave Entrainment (BE) via binaural beats about 5 years ago. I have used binaural beats on and off with some success, and as I researched the topic online, I wasn’t really surprised to find how hotly contested their efficacy actually is.
Despite having been around for years, BE and binaural beats are still far from being considered mainstream. Despite many readers already being aware of this topic, I suspect many are not. It is my hope that the following discussion will benefit you in your quest for increased productivity!
But first things first – many readers are probably wondering just ‘What On Earth is Brainwave Entrainment?’
Brainwave Entrainment is the stimulation of the brain to enter a specific state via utilization of a pulsing sound, light, or electromagnetic field. The pulse elicits what’s known as the brain’s ‘frequency following’ response, which encourages or nudges the brainwaves to match up and correspond with the frequency of the beat or pulse.
The brain’s agility or ability to cycle through various brainwave frequencies has a major effect on literally everything we do. Whether it is reflected in our ability to manage stress, focus, retain information, brainstorm new ideas, find motivation, or our ability to rest, it is easy to see how being able to consciously manipulate this function would be extremely useful. It is also important to remember that there is no such thing as a brainwave that is ‘better’ than another. Rather, some brain waves are more conducive to achieving a desired state of mind or resourceful state to complete a given task.
Pick Your Persuasion: A Concise Summary of the 5 Brainwave Frequencies
Before you jump into this exciting new world, it is beneficial to first understand a little about the 5 types of brain wave frequencies which can be observed with an EEG. An EEG (electroencephalograph) is a tool that is used to read brain wave patterns. Each brain wave has a multitude of purposes, and understanding them will help us improve our mental functioning.
The five brain waves
Listed from highest to lowest frequency: gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta.
Gamma (40-100 cps, cycles per second)
High levels of gamma activity are associated with increased sensory perception, focus, and processing speed. This results in things like high intelligence, compassion, exceptional memory and recall ability, happiness, self-control etc. If your goal is peak performance and intelligence, you want high levels of gamma brain wave activity – think high IQ.
Beta (14-100 cps)
This is our normal awake state where we spend most of the day. Beta waves are associated with logical thinking and conscious thought. Getting the right amount of beta waves allows us to focus and complete tasks. An overabundance of beta waves results in stress and anxiety. Consuming caffeine increases beta activity.
Alpha (8-13 cps)
Alpha is a state we go into throughout the day many times, but usually only fleetingly. If you find yourself daydreaming or ‘zoning out’ and losing track of time, you were in the alpha state. It is associated with a state of relaxed, focused concentration.
Theta (4-7 cps)
The theta state is similar to alpha but deeper and noted for producing sudden intuitive insights. If you have heard of the concept of instructing your subconscious mind to solve a problem for you and allowing the answer or insight to suddenly hit you, this answer would likely come to fruition when your brain is experiencing a high level of theta activity.
Delta (3 or lower cps)
Delta is characterized by the sleep state. It should be noted dreaming occurs during the alpha and theta states.
The Gruesome Twosome
The two most common brainwave entrainment tools on the market are Binaural Beats and Isochronic tones. While Binaural Beats have been around since the 1800’s (or even earlier), Isochronic tones are starting to replace them due to the fact that Binaural Beats require the user to wear expensive headphones (earphones are not nearly as effective as they tend to not block sound as effectively as expensive headphones). Also, users of Binaural Beats have noted that the efficacy wears off after a while. This results in the need to purchase or create different tracks with different frequencies.
Fortunately, Isochronic tones, or pulsed tones do not have this significant drawback. On the contrary, they seem to become more effective the more one uses and becomes accustomed to them. Similar to the Pavlov effect.
The reason for this is due to the fact that Binaural Beats play two different frequencies into each ear. For example, one ear receives a tone at 150hz, and the other ear receives a tone at 160hz. The brain then ‘entrains’ a 10hz rhythm, which corresponds to an alpha state of deep relaxation. You will hear a beat, but it is in fact an auditory illusion.
The problem is that eventually your brain adapts to the frequencies and will stop processing and a beat from the two differing tones. In other words, it stops entraining the difference between the two tones as effectively as it did initially, resulting in no binaural beat.
I-So Want to Know More!
Isochronic tones are an audible rhythmic pulse that the brain can easily follow along to. The brain has a natural tendency to follow, or ‘entrain’ to the rhythm or pulse it is presented with. Therefore isochronic tones do not diminish over time. Furthermore, the rhythm generated by the isochronic tone is picked up by everyone’s brain since rhythm is one of the key functions of the brain. Everyone responds to it!
You can entrain your brain to a state of deep meditation, relaxation, or excitement and motivation (like right before going to the gym) and isochronic tones are quite effective at this. If you regularly listen to isochronic tones, you will train your brain to move into the corresponding state of the pulse immediately upon hearing the tone, as I touched on above.
Furthermore, many people feel that the effect in their cognition from a binaural beats session is poor at best, noting that the effect wears off after about 10 minutes when one stops listening. There are many who feel that most of the effect will be the result of a placebo effect, further conflated by a confirmation bias. It isn’t difficult to understand why Isochronic tones are becoming more and more popular.
Yea For Science!
Wikipedia reports on studies conducted on Isochronic tones:
More than twenty-one independent peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled studies have been conducted between 1979 and 2012 which show a range of cognitive-behavioral benefits achieved through the practice of temporarily altering brain waves, including: cognitive enhancement after 6 weeks of gamma wave stimulation; improvement in academic achievement after beta brain wave stimulation; increase in alpha wave strength measured by EEG during meditation; substantial reduction in anxiety and corresponding increase in relaxation after theta wave stimulation; and reduction of headache pain, reduction of anxiety, and improved sleep after delta wave stimulation.
At any rate, we are all different and unique individuals, so the important thing is to decide what works for YOU. Some people state that if one finds the buzzing sound of binaural beats to be annoying, then they will be of no benefit. On the contrary, if you enjoy the experience, they can be very beneficial.
A LUCID DREAM?! That Sounds Amazing!
My personal experience is that they are not as effective as Isochronic tones, yet the only time I achieved a lucid dream (unlike anything I have ever experienced before) was after listening to a hodge-podge of random ‘spiritual awakening’ and ‘chakra opening’ binaural beats on Youtube for 8 hours throughout the day. I am convinced there is something to them. Furthermore, some Binaural Beats tracks are very effective for helping me to focus or get pumped up to hit the gym. The thing is, I ‘feel’ it very clearly within about 10 minutes of listening. Therefore, it is really up to you, the captain of your individual experience to decide what tracks work for you.
New Kid on the Block
Brain.fm is the new big name on the mind music market . It is AI-generated music to help you focus, relax, or sleep. It uses neither binaural beats nor Isochronic tones, but the cognitive effect is very noticeable in my opinion. Their AI engine uses 1.6 million lines of code and is capable of producing wonderful music that can be timed with millisecond precision to create the rhythms necessary for optimal brainwave stimulation. The music sounds like it’s made by humans but is totally run by a complex AI engine. They have over 12 years of research, and over 180 studies conducted to document the efficacy of their technology. It is very high order stuff indeed.
Getting Down to Business
Once you decide which state you want to achieve, you need to pick the right mix for the mood you want to entrain yourself to. Do you want to relax and calm down? Try you alpha mix. If you want to sleep you need your delta mix. If you need to do something that is intellectually challenging, you would listen to a gamma mix.
By now you might have poked around on Youtube and want to take it a step further. The question is, ‘What Brainwave Entrainment program is best for me?’ There are so many different products on the market that I cannot personally conduct a full review of each, but two products that I have used and seem to standout in terms of value for money are Neuro Programmer 3 and Brain.fm.
Neuro Programmer 3 is the hardest hitting software in terms of value for money and complete customization ability. It supports Binaural Beats and Isochronic tones. There are recommended sessions based on your personal situation and goals. A full in depth review can be found at: http://healthvibed.com/neuro-programmer-3-reviews/
Brain.fm, while not using pure Binaural Beats or Isochronic tones, as I mentioned above, is completely AI-generated music to improve focus, relaxation, and sleep. It is great stuff, and although totally different from Neuro Programmer 3 and much less customizable, it certainly warrants further exploration.
Get Started on Your Grand Adventure Now!
Both Neuro Programmer 3 and Brain.fm can be tried free of charge, so they are two good places to begin your adventure into this exciting new world. As there are countless resources becoming available all the time, please share your insights and experiences in the comments section so we can all learn and benefit.
I hope I have inspired you to experience the wonderful world of brainwave entrainment for yourself if you have not already done so. At the very least, you will find it to be an interesting experience. At best, you will become so focused that you will turn yourself into a Guru of Productivity and thank me for years to come!