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Can Binaural Beats Help You Sleep (or Is It Just a Bunch of Noise)?

You’ve tried leaving the bedroom door open and calculating your “sleep opportunity.” Heck, you’ve even attempted to shake up your beauty routine. But a decent night’s shut-eye still feels like a faraway dream. (You know, if only you could actually fall asleep.) Maybe the secret to a blissful night of z’s lies in updating your playlist—specifically, tuning in to some binaural beats.

First, some background: Binaural beats refer to the way in which our brains tend to perceive the difference between two slightly different frequencies of sound played in opposite ears as one new tone. For example, let’s say that you play a 300-hertz tone in one ear and a 280-hertz tone in the other. Interestingly, your brain will absorb and process a 10-hertz tone. That’s a very low-frequency soundwave that you can’t actually hear but that can still have an effect on your brain. 

“Listening to these sounds that create a low-frequency tone, research indicates, triggers a slow-down to brainwave activity—and that may help you relax, lower your anxiety and can make it easier for you to fall asleep and sleep more soundly,” says Dr. Michael Breus, aka the Sleep Doctor.

But it’s not just about slowing down your brainwaves. One small study also found a link between exposure to binaural beats and three hormones associated with sleep. Specifically, participants had a reduction in cortisol (“the stress hormone”) and an increase in DHEA and melatonin (two sleep-promoting hormones) after using binaural beats.

Intrigued? Try listening to 15 to 30 minutes of binaural beats on YouTube or Spotify before bed and with some good-quality headphones for a couple of weeks. (Warning: The sounds are a little new-agey.) There’s no guarantee that it’ll help you doze off, but hey, it’s worth a shot, right? Sweet dreams.

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