Binaural beats sounds like something too good to be true. Simply by listening to audio, you can stimulate your brain into becoming more focused, experience lucid dreaming, experience drug like trances without the nasty side effects, treat chronic anxiety and, perhaps most importantly, help beat insomnia for a better sleep.
By now your bullshit detector should be going crazy.
How can you magically cure all the problems in your life with sound?
While we won’t be weighing in on the more outrageous binaural beats claims, we will certainly be taking a closer look at whether or not you can use binaural beats for better sleep.
But first, let’s take a closer look at what binaural beats are and how they work.
What are Binaural Beats?
While binaural beats may seem like a new concept, they were actually discovered waaaay back in 1839 by physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.
Binaural beats is a somewhat tricky concept. However I will attempt to explain them as simply as possible.
Let’s say you are wearing a pair of headphones. Your left earpiece plays one tone at a set frequency and your right earpiece plays another.
As your brain processes the difference between the two tones, it creates a third tone, And that third tone is a binaural beat.
Okay, with me so far? Good. Here’s where it gets a little more complicated.
The frequency of the binaural beat is the difference between the frequency of the two tones that your ears hear.
Let’s say your left hear hears a frequency of 200 Hz and your right ear hears a frequency of 210 Hz. That gives the binaural beat a frequency of 10 Hz.
So as you can see, you can control the exact frequency of the binaural beats by feeding both your left and right ear sounds at different frequencies.
Now here is where things get interesting.
When your brain picks up a on binaural beat, it will begin to resonate in tune with it. This in turn may influence your brainwaves, which also mimic the frequency of the beat.
And since different frequencies of brainwaves are associated with different behaviors and feelings, it is theorized that you can use binaural beats to guide your brainwaves into stimulating certain mental states, such as sleep.
Your Brain Waves
Now, before we continue, lets take a closer look at some of the different types of brainwaves.1
1. Delta Waves (0.1 – 4 Hz)
Occur during deep dreamless sleep.
2. Theta Waves (4 – 8 Hz)
Predominantly occur during REM sleep (dreams), but are also dominant in deep meditation.
3. Alpha Waves (8 – 14 Hz)
Occur when you are conscious and relaxed; such as calmly laying down with gentle thoughts flowing through your head or mediating.
4. Beta Waves (14 – 30 Hz)
If you are reading this, it is likely that your Beta brainwaves are dominating your mind. Beta brainwaves are present when your attention is focused on a problem, whether that is working something complex out in your head, Focusing on a video game or having a conversation with another person. Beta waves are also experienced during anxiety, stress and excitement.2
The theory of Binaural Beats and Brainwaves
You can use binaural beats to cause your brainwaves to run at a frequency related to your current activity. A higher frequency binaural beat can be used to help improve focus and concentration. A lower frequency binaural beat can be used to help calm and relax your mind.
And since we are a sleep blog, we will be focusing on the calming aspects of binaural beats.
So the best frequency of binaural beats for falling asleep would be 4 Hz or less. This frequency will cause your brainwaves to mimic Delta waves, the same brainwaves that you experience during deep dreamless sleep.
The theory here is that by causing your brainwaves to copy that of your sleeping self, you will quickly be able to fall asleep.
Theory is good, but can binaural beats actually help you fall asleep?
Whether binaural beats can actually help you fall asleep is up for debate.
There are plenty of people who have had great experiences with binaural beats, while others outright binaural beats as nonsense.
But what does science have to say?
In one study, 15 young soccer players used binaural beats as they fell asleep over a period of 8 weeks. Another 15 sports students replicated the process without binaural beats. When surveyed, all 15 people who used binaural beats reported improved sleep quality.3
Another study took a look at how binaural beats impacted anxiety prior to a medical operation. A triple blind study showed that binaural beats significantly decreased anxiety levels in patients suffering from chronic anxiety.4
A large problem with arguments supporting binaural beats is that the theory behind them doesn’t match reality. Skeptoid, an educational resource dedicated to critically analyzing popular culture says it best…
Binaural beats presume that brain waves work in the opposite way that they do. Certain brain states produce certain brain waves; brain waves don’t produce brain states5
That is to say that just because binaural beats can change your brain waves doesn’t mean it has an effect on how your brain functions.
But… That’s not to say that binaural beats cannot help you get to sleep.
There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?
We don’t need a scientific study to tell us that music affects people in different ways. Take my friends’ husband for instance, he listens to jazz to relax before bed. Me? I find the squeaky fart sounding tones of the trombone irritating enough to keep me awake.
So this may explain why many people indeed find binaural beats to be incredibly relaxing and an effective sleep aid. But there is no evidence to suggest binaural beats are more effective than listening to any other music that you find relaxing.
Binaural beats are not a magic sleep aid. But they can almost certainly help relax the mind, which in turn can result in a better nights sleep.
And if you have tried everything else to get a good night’s rest, why not give Binaural beats a go?
Where to get sleep inducing binaural beats
Perhaps the best part is that you can experiment with binaural beats for free. Yup, testing to see if binaural beats will help you sleep won’t cost you a penny.
Simply head over to youtube and search for Delta wave binaural beats. You will be greeted with plenty of different binaural tracks you can use to help fall asleep.
Here is the binaural beats track I fell asleep to last night.
The dull bass like sound definitely helped take my mind off other thoughts, and was somewhat calming.
As a back sleeper I had no problems falling asleep with a pair of headphones on. But I do have to question how side sleepers and stomach sleepers would cope. I mean, it wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping with your headphone earpiece squashed into your pillow.
I would love to test binaural beats paired with a sleep mask, to fall asleep easier on a plane. If anyone reading has used binaural beats in this manner, I would love to hear your results.
Should you try binaural beats as a sleep aid?
The answer to that is a solid maybe.
As we discussed above, binaural beats aren’t going to magically put you to sleep.
But if you are feeling anxious or stressed then binaural beats may very well calm you down to a point where sleep comes easier.
And at the low, low price of free, there is nothing to lose by testing binaural beats for yourself. Simply grab your favorite headphones or earbuds, hit play and you could be snoozing the night away.
Do you use binaural beats to drift off to sleep? Let me know in the comments below!