Many things in life happen in cycles, and delta brain waves are no exception. Summer follows spring. Winter follows fall. Each season has its purpose, and the same is true of brain waves.
Every day, our brains go through a cycle of electrical activity, which is the source of all thought, emotion, energy levels, sleep, dreaming, and periods of healing and renewal.
Delta waves are a bit like winter when everything slows down to its lowest levels. But underneath the quiet stillness, new life and energy stir, getting ready for a burst of growth in spring.
In this article, you will find out details about delta brainwaves. You’ll learn about their purpose in the cycle of brain wave activity and how you can increase this type of brain wave for refreshing sleep, physical and mental healing, and more profound meditation.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for peak performance in your daily life. One of the most significant benefits of spending sufficient time experiencing delta waves is the restful and renewing deep sleep cycles each night brought about by delta brainwave frequencies. But there is more to delta waves than tranquil, deep sleep, and relaxation of the mind.
Read on to find out the details about delta waves and how you can benefit from learning to activate these regenerating brainwaves.
All brainwaves are the result of electrical impulses between neurons in our brain. The total of these impulses in any given moment creates a dominant brainwave frequency, measurable using an EEG machine by placing electrodes on the scalp.
Delta waves have the slowest brainwave frequencies of all with oscillations in the range of 0.5 to about 3 Hertz or cycle per second. However, they also have the highest amplitude, or up and down movement, making them appear ‘loud’ or ‘noisy’ when viewed on EEG machines.
Studies of the human brain reveal four primary brainwave patterns that appear regularly throughout the day, called beta, alpha, theta, and delta. One other frequency range with the lowest amplitude and highest frequency, gamma brainwaves, appear less commonly.
If we compare the most common types of brainwave activity to the seasons, then beta waves are like the active months of summer. Beta waves happen when we are alert and involved in thinking and being busy in the present moment. Too much beta brain activity leads to a stressed-out, hyper feeling.
You could say alpha waves are like the spring when roots sprout and buds form. Alpha waves appear when we are relaxed, inspired, and in touch with both our inner and outer states of consciousness. The alpha brain state often dominates the mind when people meditate and daydream.
In an analogy with the seasons, theta brainwaves might represent the autumn. Theta brainwave frequencies appear as the activity in neurons slows down, and we drift off to deep sleep. Theta brainwaves connect our subconscious and conscious minds in a twilight state. Theta brain waves also appear during the Rapid Eye Movement or the REM phase of sleep connected to dreaming.
Then there are the slow delta waves of deepest, dreamless sleep. Like winter, delta is a time of seeming inactivity. But even in winter, life does not stop. Instead, the ceasing of outward activity creates space for deep regeneration and renewal. The same is true of the time we spend in delta wave frequencies. Delta waves are strongly connected to reestablishing physical and mental balance.
Delta waves happen most often when we are in deep and dreamless sleep, fully unconscious to the outer world.
If you have ever slept for seven or eight hours and woken up still feeling sleepy, unrested, and grumpy, you probably did not spend enough time in the delta state when you were sleeping.
Being woken up from delta activity produces a state of mind where you feel intensely sleepy and unable to wake up fully.
If you have gotten out of bed in the morning feeling deeply refreshed and full of boundless enthusiasm for the day ahead, you have no doubt had the experience of getting ample amounts of refreshing and dreamless delta sleep.
Delta waves also show up in the brain of experienced meditation practitioners in the most profound levels of meditation. When delta brain states are present, awareness of the external world stops, and we become suspended in the deepest levels of our subconscious mind.
Delta waves are also present or absent at other times, including:
- Delta waves are the dominant waves in infants up to about one year of age, whether they are sleeping or awake.
- Delta waves appear at a higher rate in people who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and this may, in part, explain why people with this disorder feel distracted and unable to focus.
- When healthy people engage in intense mental or physical focus, delta waves disappear.
- Using alcohol reduces delta wave activity, perhaps explaining why a night of excess drinking results in a bad night of sleep.
- Women show higher rates of delta wave activity than men, and this may partly explain the fact that women, on average, have stronger immune system responses than men.
- Delta waves also increase when people eat high-protein, low-carb diets known as ketogenic diets. This type of diet was first developed as a therapy for children with severe epilepsy, a condition of abnormal brainwave activity and seizures.
Delta brain activity is also the dominant frequency range when we are in stage 3 and 4 of our sleep cycle, associated with dreamless, deep sleep. This stage of sleep is the time when essential hormones are released, resulting in the repair of our muscles, nerves, and internal organs.
During sleep stages 3 and 4, when delta waves dominate, our body releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH), melatonin, and DHEA.
The body produces HGH in the pineal gland inside the brain, and it functions in processes of healing and repairing tissue all over the body. HGH also speeds up metabolic rate, resulting in the burning of fat.
Melatonin is also released from the pineal gland, and it regulates the sleep and waking cycle, or circadian rhythm, and it also acts as an antioxidant.
DHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. Our adrenal glands produce this vital hormone, and it is the building block of many other chemicals, including estrogen and testosterone.
Some research suggests that DHEA plays an important role in the aging process. When DHEA is low, signs of aging appear, and conversely, when DHEA levels are higher, the aging process appears to slow down.
Lower levels of DHEA are also associated with a decline in cognitive function and reduced immune response and capacity to heal. The science is still undecided about the effectiveness of taking this hormone as a supplement, but getting plenty of restful sleep in the delta brain wave state is a sure way of increasing the body’s production of DHEA.
Delta waves and lowering cortisol levels
Another observation from the study of neuroscience finds a connection to the delta wave sleep cycle and a lowering of cortisol in the bloodstream. Many people refer to cortisol as the stress hormone because our adrenal glands produce lots of it when we become tense, frightened, and feel under pressure. Cortisol is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone.
Too much cortisol can damage the brain and leave you filled with anxiety. One way to counteract excess cortisol is by getting plenty of delta wave sleep where levels of this chemical naturally drop to their lowest point.
If you have ever heard people say that getting enough sleep is the secret to staying young, now you understand at least part of the reason why: Delta waves restore the balance of regenerative processes in the body.
The best way of increasing delta waves is to do whatever it takes to get to stage 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle. For some people, this is not a problem. For others, such as those who have insomnia or another sleep disorder, getting restful sleep is a significant challenge.
Fortunately, you can use brainwave entrainment music and binaural beat soundtracks to stimulate delta waves and assist you in getting to sleep more easily.
Using binaural beats to extend the time spent in deep sleep is validated by scientific research, such as in a study titled A Novel Insight of Effects of a 3-Hz Binaural Beat on Sleep Stages During Sleep published in 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
This study and others, along with countless numbers of personal testimonies, show that you can use brainwave entrainment music and binaural beat soundtracks to stimulate delta waves to assist you in getting higher-quality levels of deep and refreshing sleep.
Delta brainwave frequencies are an essential part of the natural, daily cycle of electrical activity in our brain. Experiencing delta waves each day is vital for releasing sufficient amounts of crucial hormones linked to regeneration and healing.
Most people can safely stimulate delta wave activity by listening to brainwave entrainment music with embedded delta frequencies when they are relaxed and ready for sleep or when meditating. The potential benefits include an improved sleep cycle and a greater sense of well-being and health.