When it comes to health and personal development, we all want fast results, we all want a short cut.
But everything has its limit, and not everything can be rushed.
The short answer to how long should I listen to binaural beats is this:
You should listen for a minimum of 15 minutes. Anything above 15 minutes is generally beneficial. That's why our tracks, by default, are 30 minutes long, because this ensures good results.
However, this is a general rule which may differ between tracks.
It's worth noting that listening beyond an hour or two in one session won't necessarily provide any additional benefits, and in some cases isn't ideal.
If you want a more in-depth explanation on each of these points, please read the explanations below.
Why is More Than 15 Minutes Optimal?
Here's why we say that you should listen for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Let's say you're feeling stressed out and want to listen to a track to put you into a state of relaxation. That isn't going to happen instantly.
Binaural beats work by leading (entraining) your brain to a new state of mind. The time it takes this to happen will vary on what your dominant brainwave frequency state is at the time.
If you're highly stressed, you'll most likely be experiencing a lot of Beta and possibly Gamma wave activity. Again, that's speaking generally, because at any given time your brain will have a fairly diverse brainwave structure, but you are pretty much always in a dominant state (Theta, Alpha, Beta, etc).
Stress is liked to high-level brain activity, and to bring that down to a slower range may take 5 or more minutes. So that's a good portion of those 15 minutes already gone on just settling in and getting to a point where you calm enough to relax into the session.
Why Track Structure Makes a Difference
The way we approach the design of our sessions is to have a ramp. This is a technique that has been used in brainwave audio for many years and is accepted as best practice in most instances.
A ramp is a way of gently leading your brain towards a particular state, rather than trying to jolt or force it there.
So we don't try and immediately take you from a Beta state to a Theta state. Instead, we will take you to Alpha and then to Theta, leading you down a ramp. We step down to the desired frequency gradually, over a number of minutes.
So let's say on average it takes 5-7 minutes for your brain to connect with the entraining frequencies and settle into the session; that leaves 10 or so minutes for the benefits to occur.
Another problem with cutting a session short is that some tracks change frequency at different points.
For example, a track might start out at 12 Hz. It then ramps down over 3 minutes to 6 Hz. It then ramps up to 8 Hz and stays there for 10 minutes, and then ramps up to 10 Hz and stays there until the track finishes.
Don't worry if some of this is going over your head. The point I'm making here is that on certain tracks, if you finish the session early, you won't have completed the full cycle of frequencies and won't get the desired result.
Think of it like finishing your Yoga or Pilates class half way through. You won't get the benefits of the full session, which is purposefully designed by the teacher.
Some tracks, in the last 5 minutes, are designed to bring you back up from deep relaxation to a relaxed but fully conscious state. If you finish the session half way through, you might feel a little lazy for a while because your brain has been entrained to a dominant low frequency and is remaining there.
In short, it's best to always finish the session. That's why we provide a 30-minute version and 60-minute version as standard: so you can choose between a shorter or longer session depending on how much time you have.
Are Longer Binaural Beats Sessions More Effective?
Earlier on I mentioned that while a really short session won't provide much benefit, an extremely long session won't necessarily provide any more benefit than a short one.
I know there are videos on YouTube of 5,7 and even 10 hours long claiming to do all sorts of wonderful things, but it's not clear how this works.
- Do you need to listen to the whole 7 hours?
- What frequency is being used and what point in the track?
- What happens if you leave the session early?
Longer isn't automatically better. It might seem like you're getting more value, but that isn't the case.
The fact is, not one research study on binaural beats has ever been conducted using such a long session – because it's not necessary to listen for that long to get measured results.
You'll get to the point where the returns are diminishing. Not to mention that you will be distracted. You will need to get up and do something else: someone will call you, you'll need to eat, or go to the toilet. It simply isn't practical.
In the case of using binaural beats for focus and concentration, a two-hour session while working would probably be a good limit, if we had to put a maximum ceiling on session time.
But we'd strongly recommend taking a break at that point, simply for the sake of your ears and not excessively using headphones.
Can I Take a Quick Break While Listening to Binaural Beats?
We've had this question come up a lot over the years and it's a good one. Can you press pause and come back where you left off?
The answer is that it depends on a number of factors: where you are in the session, how long you intend to break for, and why.
If you're only a few minutes in then you should start the session over. Your brain probably hasn't fully settled in anyway, so it's best practice to restart.
If you're half way through a track (post 15 minutes), quickly getting some water or going for a wee should be fine. However, if your interruption is for more than a few minutes, it is recommended that you start again.
Additionally, if you are interrupting your session with a phone call, or taking a moment to tell your kids off, you will be completely disturbing your state of mind, so it is best to start again.
Based on our research and experience over the last 20 years, we'd say that 5 and 10-minute sessions aren't likely to be beneficial.
Aim for 15 minutes or more if you can. Ideally, you should complete the entire session, as it has been designed by the creator.
Some sessions have fairly complex frequency structures that you will need to cycle through to get the optimal benefit. That said, sessions that focus on just one frequency the entire way through could be cut short post 15 minutes without any issue.
30-minute and 1-hour long sessions are perfect. Our brains are well adapted to these durations; in the same way the brain and body comfortably handle gym workouts and Yoga sessions of the same duration.
Got a question? Go ahead and ask. We love sharing our knowledge in the audio wellness space. It's what we do for a living!