Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
RELAXED ALERTNESS AND ALPHA-WAVE BRAIN WAVE PATTERNS
Despite all the major advances in medical science, we still don't know everything about the human mind. However, as research continues, we are beginning to understand better levels of alertness and what drives them. Increasingly, evidence points to the fact that it may be possible to support clarity of mind through specific activities and the use of supplements and that the characteristics of alpha waves may be one of the key reasons.
WHAT ARE BRAIN WAVE PATTERNS?
Electrical impulses are what power the mind. Both the conscious and unconscious activities of the mind occur when neurons in the brain transmit electrical signals. Doctors and researchers can examine the brain's electrical activity using a test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) test. The test represents various types of electric activity as wave patterns. As a result, we refer to the electrical activity in the brain as brain waves or brain wave patterns.
WHAT ARE ALPHA BRAIN WAVES?
Alpha brain waves are one of the five brain wave patterns observed in the human mind. They are typically present when you are in a state of relaxed alertness, meaning that you are awake but not performing mentally taxing tasks. Relaxed alertness usually is what you experience when you first wake up in the morning. Because you have yet to leave your bed, your mind is relaxed but still active enough for you to be alert.
HOW ALPHA WAVES COMPARE TO OTHER BRAIN WAVE PATTERNS
Like ocean waves, brain waves are in a constant state of motion, and they travel at different speeds. The speed of a brain wave is called its frequency, and scientists measure it in hertz (Hz). Alpha brain waves have a moderate frequency of 8 to 12 Hz. Here's how that compares to the other four brain waves:
- Delta waves are the slowest type, traveling at 0.5 to 4 Hz. Your body produces these when you are in a state of dreamless sleep
- Theta waves are the second slowest type, traveling at speeds of 4 to 8 Hz. These waves correspond to light sleep and dream sleep
- Beta waves are the second-fastest type, traveling at 12 to 35 Hz speeds. These waves dominate when you're doing everyday tasks and making simple decisions
- Gamma waves are the fastest type, traveling at speeds of over 35 Hz. These waves show up during complex tasks like analyzing information and learning new things
WHAT DO ALPHA BRAIN PATTERNS DO FOR THE BODY?
Alpha brain patterns are essential for your body. When these wave patterns dominate, you enter a state of relaxation. You can think of alpha waves as natural stress relief. In today's world, where roughly 78% of people report feeling stressed at least one day every week, combating stress is essential. Effective stress management can cut down on some of the physical side effects of stress, such as hypertension, muscle pain, sleep problems, and gastrointestinal issues.
In addition, research indicates that alpha brain waves may hold the key to creative thinking. One small study showed that electrically stimulating the brain to trigger alpha waves increased creativity levels in participants.
HOW BRAIN WAVES INFLUENCE THE STATE OF MIND
Your mind typically produces all five brain waves throughout the day, but the amount generated fluctuates. When one type becomes dominant, you generally are in a state of mental alertness that matches. For example, an EEG would show more delta wave activity when you're in a deep sleep.
Scientists now believe that brain waves can become skewed. Evidence suggests that people who suffer from clinical depression may generate alpha waves primarily in one area of the brain and produce fewer waves than people who don't suffer from a mental health disorder. Chemical imbalances may cause the problem, but more research is needed to know for sure.
CAN YOU PROMOTE ALPHA BRAIN WAVES?
Early studies suggest that it may be possible to promote alpha brain patterns. Biofeedback, meditation, and mindfulness training are all potential ways to increase alpha waves to ease stress and increase creativity. Any of these possible interventions would take time to yield accurate results.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR MENTAL CLARITY AND AN OPTIMAL STATE OF MIND
Dietary supplements may also provide a way to support an optimal state of mind. Some supplements to consider include:
- Cocoa bean extract: Contains theobroma, which may increase mental alertness by increasing blood flow to oxygenate the brain
- Caffeine: May enhance mental clarity by stimulating the central nervous system
- Ashwagandha: Thought to act as an adaptogen to protect the mind and body from stress
- GABA: Believed to supplement levels of a critical neurotransmitter that the body needs for relaxation and stress management
You can take brain health supplements individually or choose a combination product like Body Kitchen Stress Release for mood support and stress relief or EXEED Mind to support mental clarity and cognitive function.