Hypnosis is often associated with a relaxed brain wave state.
Whether hypnosis is a direct result of the slowing of brain waves or that this is just a sign of hypnosis is still being research. For examples, most people’s breathing slows down when in hypnosis, but simply slowing your breathing doesn’t cause hypnosis. However, it is certainly interesting to look at brain waves generally and in particular, what happens to them during hypnosis.
The type of brainwaves we all produce depend on what we are doing, what we are thinking, what we are feeling, at any given time. During hypnosis, with focussed attention and altered consciousness, certain brain waves are more apparent. So, it is useful to take a look at the different levels of brain waves.
A test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) evaluates the electrical activity in the brain and record the waves, which are measured in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz). Though the levels for each 'wave' do vary depending on different research, they are roughly similar.
Gamma (31-100Hz) – Insight Wave
The most recently discovered range and the fastest frequency. Initial research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing. Not much is currently known about this state, and further research is ongoing, though we all have those brief moments of great clarity and insight.
Beta (16-30Hz) – Waking Consciousness and Reasoning Wave
This is the state we tend to be in as we work, interact, and general go about our day to day lives. Beta waves are associated with normal waking consciousness, and a higher state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. Obviously, this stage is important for functioning effectively and efficiently throughout the day. However, this can lead to stress, anxiety and restlessness. Beta can be described as the voice in our head or our constant stream of thought. Essential but occasionally quietening this voice down can be very useful.
Alpha (8-15Hz) – Deep Relaxation
This is the level where our imagination, visualization, memory, learning and concentration are all heightened. Alpha brain waves are present in deep relaxation. So usually when our eyes are closed, drifting into a daydream or during light meditation.
This is a time when the constant stream of thought of the Beta stage quietens down and the unconscious mind is much more open to suggestion. It can be thought of as the state of intuition, which becomes clearer and more profound the closer you get to this stage.
Theta (4-7Hz) – Light Meditation and Sleeping Wave
Theta brain waves are present during meditation and light sleep (including REM dream state). It is experienced as you drift off to sleep from Alpha and wake from deep sleep (Delta). So they may occur when you’re drifting off to sleep or in that light phase of sleep, just before you wake up.
Theta waves also occur when you’re awake, but in a very deeply relaxed state of mind. However you might feel a little sluggish or scattered if you experience high levels of theta waves while you’re awake.
It is this stage where we experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight.
Around the Alpha-Theta stages (around 7Hz to 8Hz), is the optimal range for visualization and hypnosis or reprogramming of your mind is. Here we are conscious of our surroundings however our body is in deep relaxation. This is when hypnosis occurs and there are varying states of hypnotic depth associates with these levels. In hypnosis it is important to get the right depth where the client is open to positive suggestions for their benefit.
Delta (0.1-3Hz) – Deep Sleep Wave
The slowest of the brain wave frequencies, Delta is experienced in deep, dreamless sleep. Delta is the stage where information received is otherwise unavailable at the conscious level. This stage and deep sleep is vital for the healing and regeneration process. When people don’t get enough deep sleep it is detrimental to their health in many ways. At the Delta level the unconscious mind is very active, however hypnosis would not be effective as the person would not be able to hear the suggestions given. It is like a computer sorting, filing, organizing and discarding data.
Malcolm Struthers Hypnotherapy - Online and in-person in Dumfries & Galloway