Sound and Altered States of Consciousness

Sound can be a fantastic Holistic Therapy. Sound works on all levels of our being;  body, mind, soul & spirit. There are many benefits associated with Sound Healing and Sound Therapies. Today we are going to look at just one of them: Sound and Altered States of Consciousness.

Sound and Altered States of Consciousness.

Sound & Altered States of Consciousness





We tend to think in terms of being conscious when we are awake and unconscious when we are asleep or not responding to our environment.  But rather than being a polar state of either conscious or unconscious, consciousness is a continual state of being, and we move through different levels of consciousness, naturally, at different times throughout the day.

An Altered State of Consciousness is any state which is significantly different than our normal waking state. Another term for the same state is an Altered State of Awareness.

Because our brain activity is significantly different than our normal waking state we can sometimes gain a different perception of the world, our ideas and thoughts may be different or more creative, we can gain new insights or find new solutions to existing problems. This is one of the reasons why many people meditate or chant mantras and also why sound can be such a powerful holistic healing tool.

Brain Waves & Altered States of Consciousness

Sound and Altered States of Consciousness - Brainwaves

As you can see from the image  our mind and brainwaves are in different states depending on the tasks we are doing.

The majority of our waking hours are spent in Beta mode. But too long spent in this mode and the brain becomes tired; we are unable to concentrate and focus and our mind may start to wander and daydream.

Alpha state is the brains natural resting state. Daydreaming is an Alpha State activity and this is one of the body’s natural mechanisms for bringing our mind back in to balance. Often we feel mental lull’s during the day and take a ‘coffee break’ to keep us going, instead of allowing the body and mind to naturally restore balance.

The threshold between Alpha & Theta state is the place many people who meditate are hoping to achieve.  It is also a brain state associated with imagination and creativity.

This threshold frequency of around 8Hz is also the ‘Schuman Resonance’ which is the frequency that planet earth is said to emit. This may also be another reason we love to get out in nature and walk barefoot on the earth.

Theta state is our ‘light sleep’ state. This is the state in which we dream and the R.E.M (rapid eye movement) state.

Delta state is our ‘deep sleep’ state. If someone is in Delta state then it can be difficult to wake them from sleeping.

Interestingly though, certain sounds can wake us quickly, even from a deep sleep. These tend to be sounds that are an alarm to potential danger. This indicates that even when our brains are in Delta state we can still respond to sound on a deep subconscious level.

Sound Therapy & Altered States of Consciousness

Many of the instruments I use in my Sound Therapy work have wonderful and captivating tones and timbres  which in themselves can be therapeutic to listen to.

The instruments are also chosen for their ability to entrain our brainwaves. When we hear certain tones and frequencies our brainwaves start to ‘match’ those frequencies.

We take advantage of this natural phenomenon to take clients in to an Altered Brainwave State to promote better health and well-being.  As moving between brainwave states is something we do naturally throughout the day, this modality of Sound Therapy is considered to be a safe, low risk therapy. (There are some contra-indications for anyone who has, or has a history of, any mental condition. )

Due to the ‘sonic signature’ of the Gong with it’s multitude of harmonic overtones, and the unique qualities of the other instruments I use, people can quickly and easily enter, and benefit from, spending time in an Altered State of Consciousness without the focus or discipline required for some other forms of holistic activity.

At the end of this article is a link to some research carried out by Alexandre Tannous on the effects that various instruments have on our brainwave state.

Benefits of spending time in an Altered State of Consciousness

It has been found that spending just 10 to 15 minutes in a lower brainwave state can be beneficial for reducing heart rate and blood pressure, maintaining potassium and sodium levels in the brain, helping to repair cells in our body, aiding recovery from stress, anxiety and illness, rebalancing the nervous system, assisting memory recall and imagination, and shifting our brain function towards our more creative right brain hemisphere.

It has been suggested that 30 – 45 minutes is the optimum time to spend in an altered state of consciousness during a Sound Healing or Therapy Session.

Neuro- Plasticity

Sound and Altered States of Consciousness - Rewiring the Brain

Research in Neuro-plasticity has suggested that the brain can re-wire itself, changing form and function, as a result of receiving new sensory stimulus.  This image is a representation of how our brains have re-wired themselves over recent decades due to new sensory stimulus as technologies have advanced.

This could also, in part, account for some of the benefits reported by clients who have taken part in Sound Therapies and Sound Healing Sessions, especially over a longer time frame.

Amongst many other things, these are some of the common benefits reported by participants following a Sound Bath or Sound Therapy Session:

  • Feeling a sense of peace, bliss, joy, unity with the universe, unconditional love.
  • Feeling very profound or feeling a divine or spiritual connection.
  • Having a sense of clarity, an awareness or finding insights into situations.
  • Complete relaxation, losing all usual sense of time, and / or environment.
  • Having original thoughts, feeling more creative and expanded.
  • Physical and  emotional pain softens or disappears completely.  Giving respite from their situation, relief from their symptoms and a new perspective on their situation.
  • A lessening of the severity of problems and life situations.
  • Over time (sometimes very quickly), people notice a changing in their attitudes, habits, behaviours and ‘holding patterns’ and often find it easier to ‘let things go’.


This article is not an exhaustive representation of the topic but offered as a general information guide from which you may like to do your own research.

This is a fascinating area of modern science. Although Sound Healing has been practiced for centuries by many cultures, modern science has only just begun, in recent decades, to understand more about why Sound Therapies are so effective.

With the continuing research in to Sound Healing and Sound Therapies I am certain that Sound is set to become a more widely used complimentary therapy to modern medicine practices.

Click on the link belkow to see the report produced from the research conducted by Alexandre Tannous into the affects of certain instruments on brainwave activity: 

Click on this link:  Research into Sound and the affects on Brainwave State.



About the author: Craig Eddington

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