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Reduce Stress With Relaxation Binaural Beats

Reduce Stress with Relaxation Binaural Beats Cover Tune In BlogPublished in SF Yoga Magazine

by Elizabeth W. Krasnoff, PhD

Stress affects your body in specific ways. It can cause you to feel feelings of anger, sadness, numbness, and even cause you to imagine a worst-case scenario. Intense stress can affect your brain by blocking access to your frontal cortex, the part of your brain that helps you to think clearly. Instead, another part of your brain, the amygdala, can take over, causing a “chemical bath” of stress hormones to flood your body (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Those stress hormones can wreak havoc with your health. Knowing your brainwaves, and using your favorite brainwave therapy to find balance, can help you relax your brain, reduce your stress, and support your overall wellbeing. As a person who loves sound and music, my favorite way to reduce my stress is by listening to binaural beats (BB).

Binaural beats are a specific type of sound that exist only in your head when you listen to them through stereo headphones. BB travel the binaural auditory pathways of the brain. Binaural hearing is used to locate auditory objects (Joris & van der Heijden, 2019). In early times, this was an important survival skill for locating food or running from a predator. Now, we use this skill to target a person speaking in the midst of a restaurant or cocktail party (Hawley et al., 2004). The customized binaural beats that we humans make use these pathways to therapeutically influence our states of consciousness.

Your brain is always operating in some combination of our five basic brainwave states. In order from slower states to faster states, they are: delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. How do you know which brainwaves you want to enhance? For stress reduction and relaxation, you need to encourage medium slow states, such as alpha, theta or a combination of alpha-theta. What are alpha and theta brainwaves? Alpha brain waves, also called alpha brain rhythms, oscillate at a frequency of 8-12 Hz and correlate to a very relaxed state of passive attention (Abhang et al., 2016; Foster et al., 2017; Herman, 1997)). They can be detected by electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG), and measured by quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG). Alpha waves were the earliest human brain rhythm ever recorded (Mazaheri & Jensen, 2010). Alpha waves decrease when eyes are open and increase when eyes are closed; drowsiness is associated with increased alpha waves (Mazaheri & Jensen, 2010; Panva & Palva, 2007).  Theta brain waves oscillate in theta rhythm, a brain wave pattern of 4-9 Hz. Theta brain waves correlate to a deeply relaxed, inwardly focused state (Abhang et al., 2016; Herman, 1997). They can contribute to thought and behavior, including learning, memory, and spatial navigation (Seager et al., 2002). They also are present in deep meditation and trance-like or hypnotic states (Brady & Stevens, 2000; Herman, 1997; Jirakittyakorn and Wonsawat, 2017). Cortical theta rhythms occur in humans and can be detected using qEEG (Seager et al., 2002).

Neurofeedback training, mindfulness, meditation and breathing are all techniques currently showing positive results in increasing our happy alpha waves and peaceful theta waves (Dadashi et al., 2015; Gaurav et al., 2016; Lagopoulos et al., 2009). To this toolkit of brainwave boosters, I add alpha-theta binaural beats. Can sound really cause changes in the way you feel? New research continues to show that our emotions are closely linked to our brainwave activity. Alpha and theta BB cause relaxation, acting as a protective mechanism against illness (Stefano et al., 1996). That means that sound frequencies from music and BB can affect your state of mind for the better. Lab experiments in a virtual reality environment (VR) showed that listening to alpha BB was more effective for relaxation than listening to music alone (Perales et al., 2019). Promising results were also seen in persons suffering from anxiety disorders (Aparecido-Kanzler et al., 2021).

Specifically, alpha sounds can be even more effective when combined with theta waves (Garcia-Argibay et al., 2019). Neurofeedback therapy using a combination of alpha and theta waves is currently used to treat anxiety in clinical settings (White & Richards, 2023). This same alpha theta formula in binaural beats is effective, because while alpha brainwaves make a person feel happier, theta brainwaves can cause a person to enter a “trance brainwave” state of deep relaxation and a blissful almost-sleep like state (Abhang et al., 2016; Jirakittyakorn and Wonsawat, 2017; Szabo et al., 2015).

You can use alpha and theta BB to to infuse your brain with relaxation. Since BB are played silently beneath music, choose music that you like. The music all by itself should put you in a relaxed state, so choose music that works for you personally. Since the beats work by playing a different tone in each ear, you must use headphones or earbuds (but not in the car please!). Over-the-ear headphones are best since they provide you with a fuller frequency sound. Always listen to BB for at least ten minutes. It takes at least that long for brain neurons to start firing at the same rate as the beat that you are hearing. I also prefer to use research based binaural beats companies, rather than the beats of unknown origin that are flooding youtube, spotify and other channels. Try combining your favorite relaxation technique with binaural beats, for a pleasing synergy. You may find that BB are a powerful tool for relaxation. 

Stay tuned to future issues of this column, where we will show you how to use BB for sleep, mental focus, and intimacy.

Visit Elizabeth at Sign up for the newsletter and receive a free binaural beats creativity track. For the full immersive Sound Medicine ® experience, download our app and receive a free two week trial.

Source Article


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