The Importance of Stimulating Alpha Waves

Humans have alpha waves. Researchers first discovered them in the 1920s and believed them to be of great importance for learning and relaxation.
The Importance of Stimulating Alpha Waves

Last update: 17 August, 2021

The brain contains neural machinery that transmits electrical frequencies such as alpha waves. You may not realize it in your everyday life, but electroencephalograms can detect them. A study recorded them among other oscillations.

The waves detected in brain activity denote that the transmission between neurons is a process involving electricity and magnetism. We can detect them from the outside with devices precisely because of these characteristics.

Scientists have identified five types of brain waves:

  • Delta waves are basically the deep sleep brain activity that happens during childhood (they disappear as people grow older)
  • Theta waves are linked to imagination and reflective periods and also appear during sleep; they’re more evident in individuals experiencing intense emotions
  • Beta waves are active when we walk, make food, work, and get dressed; they keep us alert so that we relate to the environment
  • Gamma waves were the last ones humans discovered as they don’t always appear in electroencephalograms; scientists believe they’re in the thalamus
  • Alpha waves are the ones we’ll discuss in this article; Hans Berger described them in 1924 and they’re linked to states of meditation, relaxation, and moments prior to rest

Characteristics of alpha waves

The classification of brain waves comes from the frequency range in which we detect them with the devices available to us. The frequency of a wave is equal to how many times it oscillates in a given time.

Alpha waves have a frequency between eight and 12 Hz. They operate in that range and we can distinguish them because the other four brain waves have different frequencies.

Alpha waves appear when we’re relaxing. They start in the posterior part, the occipital lobe, and distribute from there. They usually register just before a person falls asleep.

These waves are directly connected to the potential of the human mind to concentrate and meditate because of the moments in which they appear. We’ll surely have more alpha waves if we’re in a trance-like state, connected with the moment we’re living, in inner peace.

Researchers suspect it happens because the brain tries to match the frequency of external sounds. There are usually monotonous sounds in moments of relaxation, either from nature or from the kind of silence that contains some vibration. Then, the brain tissue seeks to oscillate at the same low frequency — between eight and 12 Hz.

Hence the expression “being in the alpha state of mind.” There’s no such thing and it merely symbolizes the moment of concentration and intimate connection a person can attain at any given moment.

A person relaxing.
Moments of calm and relaxation boost the brain’s alpha waves.

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How to stimulate alpha waves?

The idea of training the brain isn’t new but it’s gaining more ground in recent times. For instance, books such as Train Your Brain, aimed at the general public, propose the possibility of directing the brain tissue towards the achievement of objectives.

Likewise, the academic world is studying the implications of practices such as mindfulness for stimulating alpha waves. In fact, some neurobiological underpinning is making its way into understanding traditional and not-so-traditional meditation techniques.

As you can see, there are ways to nudge the alpha waves to help us relax and have a healthier connection with the outside world. Some of the recommended practices are:

  • There’s been scientific research of the yoga Nidra variety; that of authors Kumar and Joshi, for example.
  • Deep and controlled breathing.
  • Dedicate some time of the day to visualize the future you want, the goals you wish to achieve, with a powerful imaginative power that transports you to that reality.
  • Some playlists can stimulate alpha waves. In fact, a study in the journal Hearing Research proposed that the use of binaural sound is useful. This involves using different frequencies, at the same time, for each ear.
A woman listening to music.
Music specifically designed for relaxation is key to alpha wave potentiation.

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The brain and its knowledge

The brain isn’t just an organ for thinking and performing actions. Alpha waves are the proof of an important, yet little-known, side of neurons that consists of meditation.

Human beings need relaxation and intimate connection to have a healthy life. From this state, it’s possible to project oneself towards goals and achievements that we enjoy.

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  • Kumar, Kamakhya, and Bhanu Joshi. “Study on the effect of Pranakarshan pranayama and Yoga nidra on alpha EEG & GSR.” (2009).
  • Solca, Marco, Anaïs Mottaz, and Adrian G. Guggisberg. “Binaural beats increase interhemispheric alpha-band coherence between auditory cortices.” Hearing research 332 (2016): 233-237.
  • GARCÍA, Andrea Caroline CASTRO, and Arlyn DURAN RODRÍGUEZ. “Influencia del Mindfulness sobre la Ansiedad y la Depresión en Estudiantes de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello.”
  • Anwar, Dilnashin, et al. “Use of portable EEG sensors to detect meditation.” 2018 10th International Conference on Communication Systems & Networks (COMSNETS). IEEE, 2018.
  • Pragya, Samani Shreyas, and Pratap C. Sanchetee. “Impact of preksha meditation on alpha waves in EEG.” Indian Journal of Clinical Anatomy and Physiology 5.4 (2018): 519-524.