How we can optimize the benefits of light in our lives
by Carolina Orozco R
One of the questions I am asked often is: “How can a lamp make me feel this way? it’s just light…” It has always surprised me how little credit we give to the importance of the role that light plays in our lives, in fact we even produce it!
Although some of the most significant advances we had in neuroscience dates from the past 70 years, we can trace experiments back to the II century. A study made by Ptolemy about light stimulation impacting our brain, showed that staring at a flashing light going through a turning wheel, resulted in euphoria and tension release. This idea was brought back later on with different types of machines from the renaissance to our modern time, with the common conclusion that exposing the brain to flickering light for a certain period, can have an effect in the way we feel and behave.
Our brain has close to 100 billion neurons, with an even higher number of connections, communicating at all times down the neural network. Neurons communicate through electricity responsible for carrying the data to the mind and body so we can function in our lives (move, think, feel, breath and so on).
Thanks to modern technology, conducting tests such as electroencephalograms (EEG) were possible allowing scientists to study and explore the brain activity. They learned that the small electrical currents, emitted from the neurons, travel through our brain in repetitive patterns endowed with cycles of frequencies that are measured as hertz (Hz), (a cycle per second). These oscillations are called brainwaves, and they can change depending on the activity we are doing or our mood. Therefore, understanding them can help us have a healthier and more balanced life.
There are 5 main categories of brainwaves that have been connected to different behaviors and states of mind. Here is a short description to introduce them:
BETA 12 – 40 Hz: This is the frequency that we use the most in the daily life. It helps us assimilate all the external information that we receive through our 5 senses.
ALPHA 8,5 – 12 Hz: This frequency is most present when we are in a state of relaxation and at the beginning of a sleepy state. Associate to those introspective moments, day dreaming and they help reducing performance to the senses that bring us external stimulus and reducing stress.
THETA 3,5 – 8,5 Hz: This frequency occurs during sleep, right before the paradoxical sleep. Associated with tranquillity, deep consciousness, creativity and hypnagogic state.
DELTA 0,5 – 3,5: This frequency is present during deep sleep. Associated to restful sleep and physical relaxation and rejuvenation. It can be reached while being awake by the most experimented meditators.
GAMMA 40 + Hz: This frequency appears when we are very focused, at a very high level of concentration. It is associated with heightened awareness, efficiency to process information and memory.
When there is an unbalance in our brainwaves they can represent a risk to our well-being. For example, spending too much time on Beta can lead to anxiety, insomnia and excessive stress. Too much time on Alpha can lead depression and it is also associated to attention deficit disorder (ADD). Neuroscientists have discovered that the brainwaves can be modified through sensorial stimulus. This is why learning how to access and control them can help us have a healthier and more equilibrated life.
You might be asking: “But how does the lamp play a role in all this?”
When an oscillatory system enters in contact to an external rhythmic system with the same harmonics, for a consistent period of time, a synchronization to the external system takes place, this is called entrainment. An example can be found in our circadian rhythm which is synchronized with the rotation of the earth and it’s what regulates our waking and sleeping.
In terms of brain entrainment, “since communication of the neurons is made by electrical pulses that are rhythmic in nature, and just like any other rhythmic system, it can be subject to entrainment,” it can be induced by exposing the brain to an external stimulation, in this case light.
The stroboscopic light sent by the hypnagogic lamp is a visual stimulus that when hitting the retina activates it and pulses are sent to the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus. Part of this visual stimulus is sent to the primary visual cortex. When the visual cortex receives constant and repetitive signals from the pulsing light, its neural activity begins to synchronize to the same frequency followed by some other areas of the brain.
A study conducted by Tsuyoshi Inouye, at the Graduate School of Medicine, in Osaka, showed that brain entrainment induced by light stimulus caused inter-hemispheric synchronization. Reaching this hemispheric harmonization can have great benefits in our lives. Practitioners of this method after a long period of consistent practice, have shown mental clarity, better ability to focus, creativity, improvement in cognitive performance and a general state of wellness and relaxation, as they can enter any brainwave when desired.
When it comes to the brain, we are just scratching the surface, there is still a lot to learn and we haven’t yet understood its full potential. Studies continue to provide more evidence of general brain entrainment benefits but we are all unique creatures so effects that can be seen in some people are not seen in others. The best way it’s to try it and see what works better for you.
To have a higher entrainment impact, the sessions with the hypnagogic lamp are also combined with music that on its own it’s also a rhythmic system, and helps the visuals get more colourful and fun to experience.
If you are interested in trying this technology don't hesitate to contact me for more information. It is important to clarify that as with any technology there are some contraindications. Please avoid using it in case of epilepsy, mental disease such as psychosis or when using anti-depression drugs. This lamp doesn't intend to replace medical treatment.
Resources: Ultimate Guide to Brain Entrainment, Tony Balbin. Les Nouvelles Sciences de la Santé, Pr Denis Bédat. Brain Entrainment, Lance Carter.