In an upcoming blog series, I’ll have a look at the sleep stages and how they fit together to form our nightly sleep cycles. Today, we’ll start with an overview of the waking brain. For more detail, have a look at MST’s “Stages of Sleep” webpage, or check back over the next week as we explore the sleep stages together.
The Waking Brain
When a person is awake, the brain experiences two types of brain waves: beta and alpha. Which set of waves your brain exhibits depends on what you’re doing.
Beta waves occur when the mind is fully alert. These are the highest frequency brain waves, and are the most “desynchronous”—in other words, the waves have the least regular pattern. The waking brain is constantly multitasking, managing a stunning variety of information and action, so it’s understandable that it would be the most active and least patterned in the state.
Alpha brainwaves happen when the brain and body are most relaxed. A person who meditates is experiencing alpha waves during a meditation session, for example. Some mindful physical activities can encourage alpha wave formation as well, such as yoga or walking meditation.
Waking Brainwaves and Your Health
Activities that encourage alpha waves have far-reaching health benefits, again according to MST. Whether it’s meditation, reiki, biofeedback, yoga sessions, or simply lying on your back in the grass and watching the clouds, taking the time to relax while you’re awake has measurable benefits for your overall health, from blood pressure to alertness. Alpha brain waves give your brain a “break” from the active, busy multitasking of the beta wave state.