What are delta waves and when do they occur?

October 9, 2020 3 mins read
What are delta waves and when do they occur?

If there’s one thing budding sleep gurus get excited about, it’s delta waves. These high amplitude brainwaves, which are emitted from the thalamus, are the key to unlocking deep sleep.

In fact, they’re so helpful in bringing on deep sleep that delta waves have even been reproduced as musical binaural beats.

Sound interesting? Let’s unpack the importance of delta waves in the sleep cycle and how they play an essential role in getting you fresh and alert for the next day.

What are delta waves?

When we sleep, our brain sends out signals (brainwaves) to different parts of the mind and body to begin restorative functions, like releasing hormones. Delta waves, which are generated in the deepest, dreamless sleep, are low frequency and deeply penetrating brainwaves (like a drumbeat). They stimulate healing and regeneration, which is why deep, restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.

What stage do delta waves occur?

During sleep, delta waves are slowly released in the first two stages of light sleep where brain activity is lower. As you transition into stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep), delta waves increase and quicken in frequency. If you were to be abruptly awakened while in the deep sleep cycle, you’d wake up feeling groggy and disorientated.

How do delta waves affect sleep?

In the delta state, brainwaves support restorative cycles where your energy levels are restored and the body recharges itself through tissue and cell growth. Studies have also shown that while in sleep stages 3 and 4, these brain waves play an integral part in you feeling alert and rejuvenated in the morning.

Other facts about delta waves

Science tells us that during the delta state, the following functions take place:

  • Anti-aging hormones like melatonin and DHEA are released when we are in a delta state, so more deep sleep equals a youthful look!
  • Babies spend more time in the delta state than adults. Even when they’re awake their delta waves are highly functional.
  • Women display more delta wave activity than men.
  • Parkinson’s disease, narcolepsy and schizophrenia can affect delta waves. People who have these disorders have different delta wave activity.
  • People with ADD (attention deficit disorder) exhibit more delta wave activity at night, which is why they can find it difficult to concentrate or become distracted easily during the day.
  • Alcohol and drugs have a lasting effect on delta waves, sometimes changing the frequency or rate of release completely.

Delta waves are essential to waking up feeling refreshed and alert. This deep part of the sleep cycle has many healing and restorative benefits for the body and mind, making it a powerful and impactful stage of sleep.