Brainwaves affect the level of being we experience. Depending on how fast they are moving, we may be at full consciousness or in a dream-like state. But what are brainwaves, exactly?
Brainwaves can be defined as the rhythmic motions of electricity in the brain which work together to create a flow of energy. They are the result of neurons working together and communicating across your brain. There are different levels of brainwaves, which is the reason why you are able to go to bed at night. If there was only one state, you would be at full alertness – or completely unconscious – at any given time.
Brainwave frequencies are measured in cycles per second, known as Hz, pronounced “Hertz”. It is these cycles which differentiate each state from one another. The higher the level of cycles per second, the more aware a person is. There are five types of brainwaves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta.
Gamma waves are measured at 30 – 100 Hz, although the average rate is about 40 Hz. This level of brainwave frequency is not usually attained in a standard state of consciousness. Gamma waves are an important cog in the theory of the unity of conscious perception.
The high frequency is believed to induce high levels of cognitive functioning and concentration ability. Some researchers have found that the gamma state can be reached through meditation which focuses on love and compassion.
Beta brainwaves are what your brain experiences when you are in an awakened, conscious state of mind. The brainwave frequency of the beta state runs 12-30 Hz, which almost crosses over into the gamma levels of frequency.
The higher the frequency of this state, the more likely you will be to feel stressed out and agitated. Depression and anxiety are most tied to beta because this frequency “can lead to ‘rut-like’ thinking patterns.” This happens when your brain continues to dwell on the same thought over and over again.
Alpha brainwaves run between 7.5-12 Hz, which is just slightly below the beta frequency. This state of consciousness is reached when a person is in a deeply relaxed state, but not asleep.
It is also possible to reach the alpha state while daydreaming. Because alpha is associated with relaxation, there is some belief that attaining this state of consciousness may help to treat anxiety and depression. Patients who practice relaxation and meditation practices, as well as “inattention” methods, may find relief from these symptoms.
The theta frequency runs between 4-7.5 Hz. The theta state is found in only short bursts, between the alpha state when drifting off to sleep and when emerging from deep sleep (the delta state). Light REM sleep is most associated with theta and this is when your subconscious mind is most active. Theta has been known to help people access areas of their mind that they are otherwise unaware of.
The delta state has the slowest cycles in its frequency, a mere 0.5-4 Hz per second. This level can be attained in deep, dreamless sleep or during meditation which reaches levels of detachment from consciousness. The key is that the mind is in a completely unconscious state.
The importance of delta is the healing properties it brings to the mind. As humans, we all need the opportunity to shut down for small amounts of time to help us cope with the other states of existence, particularly beta.
The Hypnagogic State and a Higher Level of Consciousness
Hypnagogia is the borderline between alpha and theta, between 7-8 Hz. Achieving the hypnagogic state can be extremely helpful in accelerating your creativity. It has been known to inspire great works such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and the art of Salvador Dali.
Sleep is not a necessary component of the hypnagogic state; one merely needs to be relaxed enough to the point of being on the brink of sleep. One important way of reaching hypnagogia is through relaxed meditation.
Technology and the Hypnagogic State
There is some incredible technology available out there for those hoping to access the hypnagogic state. One of the more interesting devices is called the Lucia No. 03 Light Machine. Developed by neurologist, Dr. Dirk Proeckl, and clinical psychologist, Dr. Engelbert Winkler, both of Austria, this light machine has been used to achieve many effects. Its most notable benefits, according to the website, are reduced anxiety, depression, fear and stress, a sense of inner peace and emotional stability, increased intuition, and more restful sleep, among others.
Each level of brainwave frequency has a purpose in the human mind. Some are more confounding than others, such as theta compared to beta.
However, the reason we experience each state is because our brains need these levels to process different types of information. Even in delta, our brains are working in such a way that we cannot access the data. Yet, this does not mean our brains are not plodding along steadily, figuring things out that our conscious minds cannot, and do not need to, comprehend.
It is possible that we may tap into deeper creativity in the theta state. Yet, it is also possible that we are not meant to experience that state except for in small doses.
Machines, such as the hypnagogic light therapy – Lucia No. 03, shows us that there are some positive aspects of using technology to access these usually uncovered states of mind. As technology progresses and we are able to learn more about these states, we’ll also learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of accessing them.