Your brain constantly produces bursts of electrical activity. In fact, that’s how groups of neurons in your brain communicate with each other. When your brain produces these electrical pulses, that’s what’s known as brain wave activity.
Your brain produces five different kinds of brain waves, each of which operates at a different speed. From fastest to slowest, the five different types of brain waves include:
Theta waves fall close to the low end of the spectrum. They are slower than alpha waves but faster than delta waves. An EEG would measure theta waves in the 4 to 8 Hz range.
All five types of brain waves have different but important roles to play when it comes to your health and wellbeing. At various times of the day, different types of brain waves will be active, and that’s normal.
Certain factors can disrupt this natural cycle, such as stress, some medications, and a lack of adequate high-quality sleep.
Ranging from fastest to slowest, here are the other four types of brain waves that your brain regularly produces.
Gamma waves are the fastest of all the brain waves. They oscillate all the way up to the 100 Hz range and possibly even faster, since they can be challenging to measure accurately.
Your brain produces gamma waves when you’re intensely focused on something, or fully engaged in solving a problem. You’re likely at peak concentration when your brain fires off gamma waves.
Just below gamma waves on the spectrum are the beta waves. These waves fall into the 12-38 Hz range. These are the brain waves that dominate when you’re awake, alert, and engaged.
You can have relatively faster or “high beta” waves, which occur when you’re involved in very complex thought processes. Or, you can have slower or “low beta” waves that tend to occur more when you’re mulling over something.
If your doctor put electrodes on your scalp while you were sitting quietly and relaxing, but not thinking about much, it’s likely that alpha waves would dominate the EEG results.
Alpha brain waves measure between 8 and 12 Hz and fall right in the middle of the spectrum.
All the way at the bottom of the spectrum of brain waves – below theta waves – are the low, deep, slow delta waves.
Both delta waves and theta waves occur when you’re asleep, but delta waves are the waves that dominate when you’re in a period of deep, restorative sleep. They measure in the 0.5 and 4 Hz range.
Your brain produces five kinds of brain waves, each of which operate at a different speed. Some are very fast, while others are much slower. Theta waves are slower than gamma, beta, and alpha waves, but faster than delta waves.
Your brain tends to produce theta waves when you’re sleeping or dreaming. They tend to occur when you’re drifting off to sleep or just before you wake up. Theta brain waves can also occur when you’re awake and in a very deeply relaxed state of mind.