Across the human cortex there are electrical patterns, or brainwave frequencies. The 5 different brainwave frequencies are delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. These frequencies can be viewed with an electroencephalograph, or EEG. An EEG allows medical experts to note electrical activity within the brain and it records various patterns.
Each of the 5 different brainwave frequencies serve a unique purpose to mental function. In particular, the fluid transition from one type of brainwave to another is a significant tell of how well a person focuses on their daily activities, manage stress and get restful night’s sleep. The over- or under-production of any of the 5 frequencies can create issues in daily life.
The frequencies of the brain can be noted in order of high to low by the order gamma, beta, alpha, theta and delta. Each one has a specific purpose but it is important to note that each one is emoting throughout the duration of waking state and will show up concurrently on an EEG. Here is a description and examination of the 5 different frequencies.
The 5 Brainwave Frequencies
Image courtesy of bebrainfit.com
DELTA WAVE – the delta waves are known as the slowest in people and are present most frequently in young children and babies. The amount of delta waves produces decreases with age in waking and sleeping moments. Delta waves present themselves most in sleeping moments. When people discuss deep restorative sleep, they are referring to a time when delta waves are most evident. These waves are also interconnected with proper digestion, regular heart beat and proper blood pressure. Some important characteristics of the delta waves are:
o The frequency range of delta waves are 0 Hz to 4 Hz (slowest of the five frequencies)
o People are in this frequency during restorative/rejuvenating sleep
o They are increased during sleep
o The optimal level of delta waves produces feeling rested after a good night’s sleep, ability to heal, immune system health
o Too little of the delta wave can show itself in the body feeling tired after sleep; meaning the lack of restorative sleeping
o Too much of the delta wave can show itself as learning difficulties, inability to focus/ problem-solve and severe ADHD
THETA WAVE— the theta waves are the next slowest wave frequency and present as daydreams or light sleep. These waves are associated with the ability to feel deep and profound emotion. This wave concerns itself with natural intuition, or creativity. Much like the delta wave, it plays a part in getting restorative sleep, but not as deeply.
o The frequency range of theta waves are 4 Hz to 8 Hz
o People are in this frequency during bouts of heavy relaxation or light sleep
o The optimal level of theta waves allows people to make emotional connections, relax, show their creativity and show their intuition
o Too little of the theta wave can show itself in the body feeling anxious, stressful or having emotional deficits in terms of emotion
o Too much of the theta wave can show itself in the body as ADHD, inability to pay attention, hyperactive nature and impulsive decision-making
ALPHA WAVE—the alpha waves are the next. These are the waves that form a bridge between our subconscious and conscious mind. They can be referred to as “idle state” waves because they are in the middle of the 5 different frequencies. If a person is meditating or practicing being mindful, these are the waves present. They have also been noted when doing exercises that are aerobic.
o The frequency range of alpha waves are 9 Hz to 13 Hz
o People are in this frequency during waking relaxation
o The optimal level of alpha wave allows people to relax and maintain calm
o Too little of the alpha wave can present itself as a person who is highly stressed, anxiety-ridden, suffers from insomnia or has OCD
o Too much of the alpha wave can present itself as too much of a daydreamer, the inability to focus on tasks and complete them, and too laid-back
BETA WAVE—the beta wave is known in the spectrum as “high frequency low amplitude” and are normally present during a waking state. They allow for logical thought processes, and therefore are instrumental in problem-solving and decision-making activities. The proper amount is needed for finishing difficult work tasks or school work. Usually higher levels of beta waves are affiliated with more anxiety and stress. They can be elevated by stimulants and coffee.
o The frequency range of beta waves are 14 Hz to 30 Hz
o People are in this frequency when they are engaging in conscious thought and logical reasoning
o The optimal level of beta wave action allows people to focus consciously on tasks, perform problem-solving and remember things
o Too little of the beta wave presents as poor cognition, ADHD, depression and too prone to daydream
o Too much of the beat wave presents as constant adrenaline, inability to relax, over stress and anxieties
GAMMA WAVE—the gamma wave is a higher frequency and is needed for cognitive function. It plays an important part in processing information, learning and memory. Using senses to understand, memorize and process new materials is evidence of gamma wave presence. A person with lowered gamma wave activity may have difficulty with learning new things or comprehending training.
o The frequency range of gamma waves are 30 Hz to 100 Hz
o People are in this frequency when they are performing cognitive actions
o The optimal level of gamma wave action allows people to think clearly, process information, use problem-solving and logic easily
o Too little of the gamma wave presents as depression, learning disability or ADHD
o Too much of the gamma wave presents as stress, anxiety, hyper-vigilance
Brainwave in the Flow State
In psychology, flow is a mental state in which one is completely immersed and engaged in an activity, wherein one is fully focused, energized, and enjoy the activity in which one is immersed in. It is where you do work of highest quality and creativity.
When the alpha-theta border is reached, at approximately 8 Hz, this is noted as flow state. This is where the subconscious and conscious mind meets. When discussing sports, athletes begin with beta but escalate quickly to alpha and then theta. Peak performance is reached during theta. If a professional athlete is ever heard stating he or she was “in the zone” or “zoning”, this is the state they are referring to.
In the flow state, when alpha theta zone is reached, the brain also pairs with gamma waves. These are the waves that step in to bind together ideas, memories and experience. It is this what allows people to move into action.
Training Your Brainwave
Brainwave training is possible. For people with a noted deficit or abundance of one type of wave that creates issues, training can be invaluable. Medications are some of the common methods of wave training, however there are natural methods to positively affect wave action. Here are two very important ones to consider.
First, brainwave training via biofeedback and audio is a helpful option. According to Be Brain Fit, It teaches subjects how to self-induce a healthier and more balanced brainwave state when they choose. It is used to treat anxiety, addictions, ADHD and other imbalances. Using technology to aid in training brainwaves can affect many different body functions. Remember that the waves dictate efficient bodily processes like heart rate, blood pressure, pain management, etc. By using biofeedback to regulate these natural activities, people can gain control of their bodies.
The body is always responding to external and internal stimuli. For example, heart rates may increase during times of stress, and times of high activity. Though they are different stimuli, they create the same outcomes within the body. Regardless of the situation, the body is naturally always trying to reach homeostasis, or balance. It reacts to different stimuli as a result of this never-ending quest. Biofeedback is a common mind-body technique that aids the body in reaching this balanced state.
Here are some characteristics of biofeedback and audio training:
• Biofeedback or audio training that benefits one area of your life will positively affect other areas
• Biofeedback is teachable and can be mastered
• They put people in charge of their health and their bodies
• They can effectively be used for optimal health, but also reaching peak performance and pain management
Second, binaural beats can alter the brainwave for improved function. According to Brain.fm, brainwaves are about finding rhythm. According to research, a steady beat played over and over can help the brain sync up with the balanced rhythm. Let’s say a person’s brainwave is showing they are very anxious and a binaural beat is played at certain frequencies that activates alpha wave. After 5-10 minutes an EEG shows how their brainwaves match the beat. In turn, the person’s anxiety diminishes and they are more relaxed.
Your Brainwave During Meditation
Meditation also plays an important part in brainwave activity and is great for training your brainwaves. Ancient yoga masters have proposed for centuries that meditation is the key for achieving peace, clarity and nirvana. It turns out they likely were onto something!
According to MindBodyGreen, Dr. Ron Alexander, who wrote Wise Mind, Open Mind, discusses how controlling the mind via meditation, can increase the emotional intelligence and overall mind strength. Meditation is the easiest way to transition from the alpha or beta wave to the theta state. The mind and intake of oxygen work together. That means when a person lengthens their breath, the brainwave activity naturally slows down.
Here is a simple meditation that proves relaxation and theta state poignancy.
1) Sit in a comfortable position with the spine tall, eyes closed and lowered distractions
2) Be mindful of the breath without altering it
3) Start using the mantra “Breath in- breath out” repeatedly
4) If the mind wanders, bring it back to the breathing pattern
5) Consistently repeat daily
The initial goal should be 5-minutes per day with an additional minute added each week after the first. By allowing the brain to slow down to theta waves, creativity, intuition and emotional health is achieved. A study done by the Norwegian University of Science, or NTNU, in 2010 proved that theta waves indicated states of deep relaxation in the middle and front portions of the brain.
Brainwaves are the communication channels between the brain and neurons. They are the root of all emotions, thoughts and behaviors. When the waves synchronize the electrical signals from neurons that are communicating, that’s when the brainwaves are created.
People’s brainwaves change with the various activities they engage in throughout the day. For example, during sleep more of one wave will be present, whereas during work more of another will be present. When the waves are out of balance and not in sync, serious conditions can display. For example, too much gamma wave activity can produce anxiety and stress.
There are ways to affect the 5 different wave frequencies and, in turn, create healthier practices for total wellness. Brainwave training via binaural beats, biofeedback audio aids, and meditation are all effective ways of returning the body to its natural balance.