Outline of brain inside man’s head with delta sign and the words “delta waves”.

In the article, Changing Your Health With Meditation, I highlighted four different types of cycles of brain waves made during meditation and why meditating is one of the best ways to rebalance brain wave activity and promote relaxation, restful sleep, and healing. But I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into the slowest of the brain waves, the delta waves.

Have you ever wondered why these brain waves are called delta? In the US, people associate the name delta with many different things. They hear the word delta and they may think of the various river deltas, such as the Mississippi River Delta. Or they may think of Delta Dental, the largest American dental insurance provider, or Delta Airlines, the largest airline company.

The delta name also has a long historical tradition of use in the US military to identify the highest levels of special forces units, such as Delta Force. Delta Force is the name given to the super secretive US Army counterterrorism group tasked with performing the most complex, classified, and dangerous military missions. 

Delta is also used by social networking groups like sororities and fraternities at US colleges, as well as in mathematics, chemistry, computing, and other areas of science and technology. Where else have you heard the word delta used?

When it comes to brain waves, the name delta is said to have been assigned because Δ, or delta, is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet and this type of brainwave was the fourth type of electrical brain cell voltage to be discovered. However a closer look at the following key facts about delta brain waves make its namesake far more intriguing:

1. Delta is the Most Active Brain Wave During Dreamless Sleep

Delta wave frequency is the slowest of all recorded brain waves, typically vibrating around a range of 1.5 to 4 cycles per second. Delta waves increase mainly at night during states of deep and dreamless sleep.

2. Delta Waves Are The Gateway to the Subconscious Mind

When delta waves increase, awareness of and attachment to the physical world decreases, and the subconscious mind is accessible. The subconscious mind, sometimes called the unconscious mind, is the seat from where emotional and behavioral habits can be programmed and reprogrammed.

3. Women Produce More Delta Wave Activity Than Men

Many females in various mammal species show a tendency towards producing more delta wave activity. Although scientists don't understand why, research shows that women also follow this patterning and produce more delta wave activity than their male counterparts.

4. Babies Spend Most of Their Time in Delta Wave Activity

With all the sleeping they do, it should be no surprise that delta is the dominant brain wave rhythm in babies up to one year old.

5. Delta Waves Linked to the Immune System, Anti Aging, and Rejuvenation

When engaged in deep sleep and normal delta wave activity, the immune system is activated and the body is able to regenerate itself and promote self-healing. The body also releases human growth hormone (HGH), which enhances deep sleep for further healing, regeneration, and maintenance. Low levels of delta wave activity during sleep are linked to an inability to rejuvenate the body, inability to revitalize the brain, accelerated aging, increased risk to disease, and poor sleep.

6. Increased Delta Wave Activity During Waking Hours is Linked to Drowsiness, Disorientation, Fatigue, Mental Confusion, Lethargy, and Loss of Memory

During the day's waking hours, delta waves activity generally decreases to help facilitate the ability to maintain energy, stay focused, and remain attentive. But when delta waves are increased during states of waking consciousness, conscious thought, logical thinking, cognition, memory, and problem solving suffer, and there is a lack of physical energy.

Individuals with abnormal delta production, where brainwave activity increases rather than decrease while awake, are locked into a perpetual state of drowsiness, disorientation and fatigue. Increased delta waves during waking hours are linked to mental confusion, lack of focus and attention, loss of memory, poor information processing, lack of cognition, diminished discernment and perception, and lack of motivation.

7. Carbohydrate Deprivation Increases Delta Wave Activity

The current popular ketogenic fad diet and others that focus on depriving the body of carbohydrates result in increased delta brain wave activity and feelings of drowsiness, lethargy, and fatigue.

8. Alcohol and Depressants Increase Delta Wave Activity

Alcohol and certain depressant drugs such as benzodiazepines (ie alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), estazolam (Prosom), flurazepam (Dalmane), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), oxazepam (Serax) temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion), quazepam (Doral), etc) increase delta brain wave activity and commonly promote relief of pain, loss of memory, muscle relaxation, unconsciousness, drowsiness, lethargy, fatigue and sleep.


About the Author

authorRene M. Rodriguez is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and board licensed acupuncturist with 20 years experience in alternative natural medicine. He's in private practice in Los Angeles, CA, specializing in digestive disorders, skin conditions, infections, environmental illness, and mind-body health and wellness. For more information, please click here.