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How Brainwaves Work

Electrical activity from the brain is displayed in the form of brainwaves. There are five categories brainwaves, ranging from the most activity to the least activity. Delta (1-3 hz), Theta (4-7 hz), Alpha (8-12 hz), Beta (broken down into Lo-Beta (13-15 hz), Mid-Beta (16-19hz), High-Beta (20-30+hz)).

Each of these take turns throughout the day when performing tasks.

Beta Waves

When the brain is aroused and actively engaged in mental activities, it generates beta waves. Beta waves are broken down into the following: the frequency of Beta waves are broken down into Lo-Beta (13-15 hz), Mid-Beta (16-19hz), High-Beta (20-30 hz) per cycle. These type of brainwaves are of relatively low amplitude, and are the fastest of the four different brainwaves.

Beta waves are characteristics of a strong engaged mind. A person in active conversation would be in beta. A person making a speech, or a teacher, or someone who regular talks and responds to questions are in high beta when engaged in work. Beta represented active arousal.

Alpha Waves

The next category in order of frequency is alpha (8-12 hz). Alpha represents non-arousal. These brainwave patterns are slower with higher amplitude.

A person who has completed a task and sits down to rest is in an alpha state. Yoga meditation, or a person who takes time out to reflect or meditate, usually promotes alpha state. Relaxing and taking a break to take a walk away from being engaged in a task or project is often in an alpha state. 

Theta Waves

Theta brainwaves (4-7 hz), typically have greater amplitude and slower frequency per second.

Once someone decides to step away from a task mentally and begins to day dream daydream is often in a theta brainwave state. “Being in idle mode” is usually the feeling one will have such as a person who is driving on a freeway, and discovers that they can’t recall the last five miles, is often in a theta state. Research has found that driving and the blinking of trees going by can increase this idle state. The repetitious visual of trees and limited distractions on a quiet roadway  during driving would induce more theta when compared to driving on a fast freeway where one would need to be on guard. This on guard feeling would produce more of a beta or “alert” state. This beta state helps the driver perform the driving task safely.

Individuals who do a lot of freeway driving often get good ideas during those periods when they are in theta. Individuals who run outdoors often are in the state of mental relaxation that is slower than alpha and when in theta, they are prone to a flow of ideas.

When performing a regular mundane task; such as, taking a shower, bath, or brushing teeth, can promote a theta state. These type of tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them. This releases active energy where free flow is promoted and occurs without censorship or guilt. This helps to release negative emotions and it is very beneficial when used in collaboration with talk therapy.

Delta Waves

The last brainwave state is delta. These brainwaves are of the greatest amplitude and slowest frequency. Typically are from 1 to 3 hertz per second. They never go down to zero because that would mean that you were had no brain activity. Delta waves normally are responsible for sleep. 

When we go to bed and read for a few minutes before going to sleep, we are likely transition from high beta to low beta. When we feel like we are drifting to sleep and close the book to turn off the lights, we transition from alpha to theta. Once we close our eyes, our brain goes from theta and when we fall asleep it transcends to delta.

Sleep and Brainwaves

Men, women and children of all ages experience the same characteristic brainwaves. They are consistent across cultures and country boundaries.

We dream in 90 minute cycles. Active dreaming takes place after your delta brainwaves transition and increase up to theta waves. Typically, when this occurs one will be in an active dream and experience rapid eye movement (REM). This is called REM sleep.

When you begin to wake up you may stay in theta waves and feel the sleepy idle state. This is usually the best time to recount your dream and write it down if you keep a sleep journal. 

Research has shown that although one brainwave state may predominate at any given time, depending on the activity level of the individual, the remaining three brain states are present in the mix of brainwaves at all times. Meaning that while somebody is an active state exhibiting a beta brainwave pattern, there also exists in that person’s brain a component of alpha, theta and delta, even though these may be present only at the trace level. 

One way to review how active your brainwaves are is to complete a qEEG Brain Map

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