Types of Brain Waves: How Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma Brain Waves Impact Your Days
When we tell people our superfood latte mixes are like “meditation in a mug,” we’re often met with a look that says, “Yeah, right!” but there is actually rigorous science behind the metaphor.
When you meditate, your body produces what are known as “alpha brain waves,” which provide you that calm, focused alertness and help reduce your body’s stress hormones (otherwise known as “cortisol”).
What are Brain Waves?
To understand brain waves, it’s important to understand neurons.
The cells in your brain are called neurons, and there are roughly 86 billion of them communicating with each other at all hours of the day.
These neurons use electrical impulses to transmit information between different areas of the brain, and between the brain and the rest of the nervous system.
These impulses go up and down in intensity, resembling waves: these are your brain waves.
How do you Measure Brain Waves?
There are devices that go on your head – known as an EEG (electroencephalography) – that are used to actually measure these brain waves and decipher exactly what type of brain wave someone is experiencing.
But what’s the point of knowing what brain waves you’re experiencing if you don’t know what each one means?
What are the Different Types of Brain Waves?
There are five different types of brain waves: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. (And no, they are not named after your sorority or fraternity).
Delta Brain Waves are your brain's slowest waves. They’re often experienced during very deep meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta brain waves are crucial for overall health and longevity because they help your body and mind recover from the previous day’s efforts.
Theta Brain Waves also occur in sleep and during relaxation. This is when you might experience very vivid imagery, even in a wakeful state. For example, when you’re driving down the freeway and struggle to recall the last few miles, or when you’re daydreaming at your desk. They are beneficial for helping your brain consolidate memories.
Alpha Brain Waves is your calm, yet alert brain state often described as a “flow state,” when you feel like you are very present and calmly immersed in whatever you are doing. They are helpful in absorbing new information, learning, and remaining calm yet alert. They’re often experienced when you’re on a walk outdoors, showering, or feeling like you’re in “cruise control” when completing tasks.
Beta Brain Waves are often experienced when you’re feeling alert, but, if experienced for too long, they can lead to stress, anxiety, and even feelings of depression. When someone with a fear of heights has to cross a bridge or climb a ladder, they’re experiencing beta brain waves. Since your body’s fight-or-flight response requires you to take action, you’re forced into beta mode.
Gamma Brain Waves are the fastest brain waves and are often experienced when you’re deeply immersed in a complex project. I am likely experiencing gamma brain waves as I write this article.
Brain Waves in Everyday Life
Assuming your career requires strong concentration and decision-making, you’ll likely switch between gamma, alpha, and beta brain waves for most of the day.
When you read for a few minutes before going to bed, you’d be experiencing low beta.
Once you put the book down, turn down the lights, and close your eyes, your brain waves will transition from beta to alpha to theta and finally, when you fall asleep, to delta brain waves.
How Can I Enhance My Brain Waves?
Utilizing your brain’s alpha brain waves can help you enter into a flow state which feels supernatural. They’re those moments when you enter into a calm, creative state of concentration helping you perform better and absorb new information faster.
Here are 5 ways you can harness an alpha brain wave state of mind:
Research has shown that meditation can help you relax and increase your focus by inducing alpha brain waves.
One study found that it took students 40 days of meditation to make alpha brain waves their most dominant brain waves.
Caffeine is like a hammer; you can use is productively to build a house, or you can break a window with it.
Try to consume less than 200mg of caffeine (roughly 2 cups of coffee, or 2 blossom lattes). Any more than that can cause you to feel jittery and anxious, leaving your mind in high-beta mode.
For best results, Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford neuroscientist recommends delaying your caffeine intake 1.5 to 2 hours after waking to maximize energy, reset your body’s circadian rhythm, and improve sleep.
Perhaps the simplest way to increase alpha brain waves is to stay hydrated. Your brain is made up of 75% water and needs to be hydrated in order to function at an optimal level (aka: flow state).
Workplace research has shown that when you get distracted, it takes 25 minutes for you to regain your full attention on the task at hand.
In order to achieve hyperfocus and stay there, you must remove every possible distraction, including disabling alerts and notifications and going into a quiet, clean environment.
As mentioned earlier, our superfood lattes are like meditation in a mug. Not only do they contain 100mg of slow-release caffeine from guarana and green tea to provide you with sustained energy, they also contain l-theanine and GABA, two amino acids that have been shown to boost alpha brain waves within 5 to 30 minutes of consumption.
The lattes are plant-based, gluten-free, and organic with little to no sugar added depending on the flavor. And the best part is, they’re so easy to make, just add water, mix and sip!