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Understanding the Impact of Brainwaves on Mental Health

Read on in this article to learn all about brainwaves and how they impact mental health.

Brain Waves and Mental Health

Article Contents

What Are Brainwaves?

The brain is a complex organ. At all times, information is being processed, and millions of neurons are firing, producing electrical signals that control our thoughts and behaviors. Most of us have heard the term “brainwaves,” but what are brainwaves? Well, brainwaves are the synchronized waves of neural oscillations; in other words, human brainwave frequencies show what’s happening in the brain. 

The brain produces five different types of brain waves states, which we’ll discuss in detail below. All five human brainwave frequencies have varying but equally important impacts on your health and mental wellness. Studying brain waves can help identify possible problems with someone’s cognitive, emotional, or neurological function.

What Are Brainwaves’ Impact on Mental Health?

If brainwaves aren’t in balance, it may lead us to experience mental, emotional, cognitive, and neurological issues. For example, over-activity of one particular brain wave frequency may lead to feeling anxious and agitated; over-activity of a different brain wave frequency could lead to excessive fatigue and sluggishness.

Research indicates brain wave frequency imbalance can lead to or contribute to the following conditions:

The Brainwaves Fastest to Slowest

Understanding brain waves requires learning about the five brain waves states. Brainwaves are measured in Hertz and are explained below from fastest to slowest.

Gamma Brainwaves

When you’re deeply focused or intensely concentrating on something, your brain will emit gamma brainwaves. This brainwave frequency is the fastest, reaching up to 100 Hz or higher. High amounts of gamma brainwave activity are associated with intelligence, compassion, and happiness, while low amounts are associated with cognitive decline and learning difficulties.

Beta Brainwaves

Beta brainwaves are under gamma brainwaves, falling in the 12 to 40 Hz range. This brain wave state is most common when you’re awake, alert, and engaged in a task or thought. Beta brainwaves can vary from fast (when thinking about a complex problem) to slow (when you’re more relaxed). Beta brain waves benefits include logical thinking and focus, but if beta activity is too high, it can lead to anxiety, obsessiveness, and sleep problems. If beta brainwave activity is too low, it can lead to difficulty problem-solving and trouble with concentrating.

Alpha Brainwaves

You know the feeling you have right before you’re about to drift off to sleep? That feeling is part of the alpha brain waves state. But alpha waves frequency can also be present in non-sleep activities, like meditation, daydreaming, and aerobic exercise. The frequency for alpha brainwaves is 8 to 13 Hz. Too much alpha waves frequency can lead to excess daydreaming, a lack of focus, and being relaxed when needing to be alert. Low levels of alpha waves can lead to anxiety and depression.

Theta Brainwaves

Theta brain waves measure between 3 and 8 Hz. This type of brain wave frequency is observed most often during sleep, but theta brain waves can also happen during deep meditation. Excess theta wave activity is frequently reported in people with ADHD, while low theta wave activity is linked to stress, anxiety, and low emotional awareness.

Delta Brainwaves

The slowest brain wave frequency, falling between .5 and 3 Hz, is delta. This state is present when you’re in a deep sleep, and it’s the state in which nightmares and sleepwalking occur. While a person is awake, excessive delta waves can indicate severe ADHD and learning disabilities. Low delta activity can cause sleeping problems and an inability to rejuvenate the mind and body.
what are brainwaves

What Are Brainwaves’ Impact on Health?

Human brainwave frequencies can be measured and detected by an EEG (electroencephalography). EEG is a test administered by attaching small metal discs, called electrodes, to one’s head, which pick up electrical signals from the brain and create an observable graph of wavy lines. The brain waves patterns look like wavy lines of varying lengths, and these brain waves patterns represent human brainwave frequencies. These graphs can detect many things that are typically difficult to diagnose, from epilepsy to schizophrenia.

EEGs are important brain waves patterns that can diagnose other brain disorders, including:

  • Brain tumors
  • Strokes
  • Brain damage from a head injury
  • Varying kinds of brain dysfunction
  • Brain inflammation

Preparing for an EEG

To prepare for an EEG, you should aim to:
  1. Avoid caffeine the day of and the day before your appointment.
  2. Avoid using too many hair products in your hair, as excess products can prevent electrodes from properly sticking to the head.
  3. Follow any other recommendations made by your doctor, and remember, EEGs are not painful.

What Are Brainwaves’ Benefits?

It’s thought that listening to different brainwave frequencies can improve different conditions. Isochronic tones are rhythmic frequencies usually included in the background of nature sounds or music. Listening to these isochronic tones will theoretically sync your brainwaves with the frequency of the isochronic tone, leading to improvement in whatever condition you’re trying to treat.

Using isochronic tones and other forms of brain wave training techniques are thought to help with:

  • Analyzing complex situations
  • Providing a sense of calm
  • Increasing concentration, focus, and alertness
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Improving memory
  • Promoting better sleep
  • Decreasing pain
  • Improving mood
  • Aiding in meditation

Brain Wave Training Techniques

Of course, improvements can only be made by listening to the appropriate brain wave frequency. Someone looking to improve sleep would not want to listen to a beta wave meditation (which promotes alertness) and instead could utilize an alpha waves frequency or theta waves frequency to encourage feelings of tiredness and relaxation.

Research is limited on isochronic tones, but research done on binaural beats and monaural beats (which work similarly to isochronic tones) does indicate brainwave entrainment as an effective therapy.

Meditation and brain waves frequencies used at home could help with mood and focus. Still, the safest and most reliable form of brainwave training is neurofeedback, in which professionals can use EEGs to measure your brain waves states and determine which frequencies would be most beneficial for you.

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