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Do Binaural Beats Induce Lucid Dreaming?

Binaural beats are not heard, but perceived as an auditory beat when two tones of specific sound wave frequencies are directed to the right and the left ear, respectively. In this Buzzle article, we will try to find out whether binaural beats can induce lucid dreaming or not.
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Binaural beats and lucid dreaming
Did You Know?
The concept of binaural beats was discovered by a Prussian scientist named Heinrich Wilhelm Dove in 1839. However, it was recognized as a brainwave entertainment technique only in the late 1950s.
The term 'brainwave entertainment' refers to techniques that involve the use of a stimulus to change one's brain wave frequency to a frequency that corresponds to a particular brain state. The stimulus could be sound or light. Brainwave entertainment involves the use of isochronic tones, harmonic box constructions, monoaural beats, binaural beats, etc., for inducing meditation, trance-like states, etc. It is speculated that these beats can help induce lucid dreaming, which is a state wherein the dreamer is aware of the fact that he/she is dreaming. Several studies have been conducted to analyze the state of lucid dreaming. In 2009, a study conducted at the Neurological Laboratory in Frankfurt, revealed that gamma brain waves or the fastest brain wave frequencies operating at 40 Hz or more were recorded during lucid dreaming. This points to the fact that the dreamers are at a higher state of consciousness in comparison to the normal state of wakefulness. To understand the role of binaural beats in lucid dreaming, let's try to understand the concept of brain waves.

Brain Waves and Binaural Beats

The human ear does not have the ability to hear sounds that are below the frequency of 20 Hz. However, on being exposed to certain types of stimuli, the brain can perceive or resonate to tones with frequency below this range. Binaural beats are a tool that can be used to achieve different brain states, which might not be attainable normally.

Binaural beats

Such states can be achieved when tones of different frequencies are directed to each ear. Under such circumstances, the brain detects the difference between the two frequencies. As a result, it resonates to a third tone, which is the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if a person is listening to a tone of 300 Hz in one ear, and a tone of 309 Hz frequency in the other ear. In a few minutes, the brain will perceive a third binaural tone of 9 Hz. It must be noted that the beat is not heard, but is perceived. The term 'frequency following response' refers to this effect wherein the brain follows or resonates with this beat. This effect was studied by Gerald Oster, a biophysicist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City in the early 1970s. Thus, with the changes in the brain wave frequencies, one may be guided into the alpha, theta, beta, gamma, or delta states.

Brain waves and brain states

Delta state (Below 4 Hz)
Theta state (4-8 Hz)
Alpha state (9-13 Hz)
Beta state (14-30 Hz)
Gamma state (30 Hz and above)

Each of these brain states has been linked with a different state of consciousness. The beta state represents normal alert consciousness, when one is awake and alert, whereas the alpha state is associated with relaxation, creativity, visualization, and calmness. The delta state is associated with deep, dreamless sleep, whereas the theta state is associated with deep relaxation, meditation, and mental imagery.

It is the believed that the following effects might be achieved by listening to binaural beats.

Reduction in stress
Sleepiness
Change in consciousness
Improved health
Enhanced memory
Increased focus, creativity, and intuition
Feeling of oneness
A feeling of detached awareness

In order to understand how binaural beats can induce states of meditation, deep relaxation, or even lucid dreaming, there's a need to understand the importance of brain wave patterns and frequencies. The human brain comprises billions of specialized nerve cells called neurons that generate electrical impulses. Brain waves, which refer to the periodic, wave-like electrical activity in the brain that is detected in the electroencephalograph (EEG), are a result of the collective or synchronized working of the millions of neurons in the cerebral cortex, as they send and receive impulses. These are categorized on the basis of their amplitude and frequency. The frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz), whereas the amplitude is measures in microvolts (uV). The amplitude is higher when the number of neurons working together is large, and the frequency is higher when the neurons are working at a fast speed.

Out of the five types of brain waves, delta and theta waves indicate states when one is unconscious, whereas alpha and beta waves are indicative of states when a person is conscious or awake. Research suggests that brain waves called gamma waves correspond to the higher states of consciousness. Studies have established a direct link between the pattern of brain waves and our behavior.

Brain Waves and Stages of Sleep

There are five stages in one cycle of sleep, which include NREM (Non-rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and REM sleep. These include:

Stage 1 NREM Sleep (the transition from alpha to theta waves is characterized by light sleep)
Stage 2 NREM Sleep (sleep spindles)
Stage 3 and 4 NREM Sleep (dominant delta waves mark the transition between light sleep and a very deep sleep)
REM Sleep (Actual dreams occur in this stage)

The first stage is characterized by the loss of self-awareness. The brain wave frequencies change from alpha through theta state (4-7 Hz). Half of the sleep occurs in the second stage, and it is a dreamless sleep. The brain waves slow down, but brief bursts of higher brain wave activity called sleep spindles and K-complexes occur. In the third and fourth stage of slow-wave sleep, there is unconscious delta activity. The fifth stage, which is the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage is the stage during which one dreams. Throughout the night, this sleep cycle repeats itself 4-5 times. Each cycle lasts 90 minutes. However, the length of REM periods increase, and the length of delta sleep decrease, until during the last few cycles when there is no delta sleep at all.

During this time, the brain waves demonstrate characteristics that are similar to waking sleep, a combination of alpha, beta, and desynchronous waves. Those who practice lucid dreaming, sometimes induce sleep paralysis to enter directly into a lucid dream. This is known as a WILD (Wake Initiated Lucid Dream). Some studies have shown that brain wave frequency changes to that of gamma brain waves, which are linked to higher level of consciousness. The gamma activity is observed in the brain's frontal cortex.

While using a lucid dream induction brainwave entrainment soundtrack, the brain resonates to low frequencies (about 3Hz) that are associated with light sleep. As a result, one will fall asleep quickly, with the last thoughts being about the intention of having a lucid dream. About 70 to 80 minutes later, the track will begin to raise its frequency so that it corresponds to the frequency of natural REM (Rapid Eye Movement) periods of the sleep cycle. The frequency increases up to around 10 Hz so that one has a fully conscious state of mind and is able to realize that one is dreaming.

Thereafter, the soundtrack will repeat in such a way that it corresponds with one's natural sleep cycles. The chance of having a lucid dream is higher when the REM stages are longer than the NREM stages.

Using brainwave entertainment tools, such as binaural beats, you can try to enter a trance-like state, and then try to move to theta state, when you are just about to sleep. In the theta state of deep relaxation and meditation, you might experience mental imagery or sensations that you might not experience during the normal conscious awareness. Most lucid dreamers suggest that when a person wakes from a deep sleep early, he/she should listen to the track while going back to sleep. The likelihood of having a lucid dream is more when one falls back to sleep with the intention of having a lucid dream.

Though some studies have linked theta and gamma states to lucid dreaming, extensive research needs to be conducted to understand the connection and corroborate it.
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Published: June 18, 2014
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