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What Are Delta Waves?

by BetterSleep
Jul 22 • 5 min read

When you sleep, your brain cycles through several stages, from light to deeper sleep and back again; during each stage, your brain also shifts through different frequencies of electrical activity, known as brain waves. Delta waves are characteristic of deep sleep, and it might be possible to harness them to improve sleep.

About Brain Waves

The stages of sleep include non-REM and REM (rapid eye movement). Non-REM sleep is divided into three substages:

  • During N1, you’re just falling asleep as your body relaxes and breathing slows. Your brain produces theta waves between 4 and 7 Hertz (Hz).
  • N2 is a light sleep characterized by short bursts of higher frequency brain waves but a transition to deep sleep delta waves.
  • During N3, deep sleep, your brain waves shift to delta. These are the lowest-frequency brain waves at just 1 to 3 Hz.

From N3, you transition to REM sleep, and the brain becomes more active. Here your brain activity is similar to wakefulness.

The Importance of Delta Wave Sleep

During a normal night of sleep, you spend most of your time in N2. Even though it accounts for much less time, deep, delta sleep is essential for proper rest and brain functioning. Sleep scientists believe this is when your brain cleans itself of waste.

Delta sleep might also be when you consolidate memories and learning. It could be important for improving heart health, a functioning immune system, tissue repair, and metabolism. During deep sleep, the body releases human growth hormone, which explains some of the benefits of this sleep stage.

Using Delta Waves for Deep Healing Sleep

Poor quality sleep can lead to inadequate delta sleep. If your sleep gets disrupted throughout the night, you might not get through enough cycles or be jolted out of deep sleep too often. Understanding what delta waves do, it might be possible to use them to get more high-quality, deep sleep.

One way to do this is with binaural beats and delta wave music. Binaural beats are when two different frequencies combine so that the brain perceives just one beat or frequency. You can use sounds alone or with music that creates a beat to match any type of brain wave, including delta.

Studies of binaural beats have found that they reduce anxiety in specific situations, such as before surgery. In one study, delta frequencies in binaural beats had the greatest effect on anxiety. You can use delta beats whenever you feel particularly stressed or anxious and want to sleep more deeply.

There are a few ways to use binaural beats. You can listen to them, but you can also mix the beats with music or other sounds you find relaxing and conducive to sleep. Add delta beats to your favorite meditation that prepares you for bed to enhance the onset of deep sleep. Or listen to the sound mix as you drift off to sleep.

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