Brain.fm – Does It Really Work?
As an entrepreneur, my days are filled with exciting projects and ideas. It’s almost like I’m always on a roll. The thing is, when it’s time to sleep, sometimes it’s hard to switch modes and slow down my system.
Do you experience this too?
Or maybe you need to do focused work in an open office layout or in a coffee shop, and you need something to block the noise. The thing is, your playlist makes you want to sing along (and not work) or daydream (instead of finishing your paper).
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, manager, athlete, artist, student, doctor–we all need time to concentrate, relax, and get enough rest at the end of the day. But many of us struggle to switch, and staying, in at least one of these modes.
Sometimes we can’t concentrate and beat ourselves up because we don’t get a lot done. Others feel anxious before project launches or client meetings, which doesn’t help them present themselves confidently. Others need pills to get some sleep.
Brain.fm recognizes these struggles. They have been leveraging something many of us love–music–to help us achieve our desired mental state –focus, relax, or sleep–easier. It’s not intended as a cure-all for our hyperactive brains or sleep-deprived lifestyles. But who would mind getting a little help, especially if they can get our brains to concentrate better within 15 minutes?
Below is my review of Brain.fm, its features, alternative products, and how you can maximize this music service to suit your needs.
Things to Consider Before Subscribing to Brain.fm.
Brain.fm’s functional music tracks is an excellent alternative to people struggling with concentration or sleep, and who also want to build a relaxation/meditation habit. It’s a good option for music lovers who had to turn off their playlists during focused work because they can’t get much done when listening to their favorite beats.
If you’re the type who works better in silence, you can use Brain.fm’s free trial sessions and see if it helps you focus better. Or you may prefer using Brain.fm only when you have no choice but to work in noisy settings with plenty of distractions.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to our problems. The tracks that help me get my tasks done may be too boring or ineffective for you. I recommend that you use Brain.fm’s free sessions to explore which tracks suit you. You can even compare its effects with other music services you’re using.
When testing Brain.fm, remember to use your headphones. You’ll need it to enjoy the 3D audio enhancements, which are designed to enhance its effects. For example, Focus tracks are meant to spatially locate the sounds in front of listeners, to direct their mind on the work right in front of them. The Sleep and Relax sessions have been engineered to simulate the rocking movement of a cradle or hammock. (Brain.fm FAQ)
A Closer Look at Brain.fm: Music + Function
Brain.fm has been making functional music to help individuals enhance their focus or to help them relax, meditate, or sleep. They use a science-first approach, which I’ll dig into in the next section of this review.
(Image source: Brain.fm white paper)
Subscribers can listen to the tracks via web or mobile apps (iOS and Android). They offer 5 free sessions, which gives you access to over 30 sessions (17 Focus sessions, 10 Relax sessions, and 8 Sleep sessions). You can then choose to opt for a Pro account, which gives you unlimited access plus downloading and offline use of their service.
Features & Benefits
You may have come across music tracks that entertain you and, as a bonus, can also boost your productivity or maybe calm your nerves. More often than not, these tracks’ top goal is to entertain first, and its impact on your productivity is only a secondary (or even accidental) benefit.
Using Brain.fm’s sessions is like intentionally striking a balance between entertainment and achieving your goal. The company began looking at scientific studies and used the information to create music that can help the human brain focus or relax better.
For example, Brain.fm’s Focus sessions were developed based on studies indicating that neural oscillations can enhance task completion. They also used ideas from saliency modeling and bayesian surprise to reduce surprising sound elements that may distract the mind. (Brain.fm white paper)
The company’s science-based promise doesn’t end here. After composing their music, they conduct experiments to determine if the music did affect people’s brains and behavior. They then use these data to continue tweaking and improving their products.
Given their process, customers are assured that the tracks have been deliberately developed to effect and sustain the benefits people seek when they turn to the app. Having said this, don’t look to Brain.fm if you want music you can sing along to while cleaning your room. I guess since lyrics can be distracting, you won’t find any in Brain.fm.
(Image source: Brain.fm app white paper)
Human Warmth + AI
Brain.fm’s tracks are not composed solely by robots. Their composition process begins with human composers creating the melodies and choosing the instruments, among others, and it ends with human listeners editing the pieces and testing their effects during experiments.
As you listen to their music, you will feel the human warmth, the art that went into polishing the pieces. It pleases your ears just enough to make you happy without taking your mind off your task, your meditation, or your much-needed nap.
This is good news for music lovers who are forced to turn off their playlists because their favorite music can’t help them stay productive. With Brain.fm, you can continue to enjoy music as you dive deep into your task. You can create a playlist of piano, electronic, classical, or nature sounds–whatever fits your mood. Functional or productive music won’t mean listening to dull sounds.
Achieve Flow State Faster with Focus Sessions
Some of us find it difficult to start our tasks. Others struggle with short attention spans, their minds drifting every few minutes. How do you get anything done this way?
The good news is, you no longer need to rely on sheer willpower to concentrate on your work. Anytime you need to write, analyze, code, study, read, or do creative projects, Brain.fm’s carefully engineered Focus tracks can help you reach your flow mental state easier as well as a sense of focus relaxation.
While wearing earphones or headphones is a must to enjoy the tracks’ benefits, you don’t need to increase the volume to get better effects. Just play it loud enough for you to hear the sounds clearly.
You don’t have to continue playing it for hours on end too. After several minutes, you’ll notice yourself effortlessly staying on your task. If you’re more comfortable working in silence, and you feel like taking off the headphones after some time, that’s okay. Brain.fm has helped get you into your elusive flow state and its effects will last even after you turn the audio off. I'm talking about a state when you achieve focus relaxation.
(Image source: How to Use Brain.fm app for Focus)
Slow Down or Meditate Using Relax Sessions
After long periods of intense focus, your brain will feel exhausted. Your productivity and work quality will start dropping, and you know it’s time to rest.
Or maybe you need to calm your nerves before a client meeting, business negotiation, major presentation, or competition.
Whether you just need a break or you need something to help your mind move into a relaxed mode the soonest, Brain.fm can help. Their relax sessions have been designed to help users calm their anxiety or put their minds on “relax mode” in-between short breaks at work.
If you’ve been building meditation into your routine, you can also use Brain.fm’s Relax tracks. To maximize its effects, the company recommends users to find a comfortable position, close their eyes to help block off distractions. If your mind needs an object to focus on and reign in your attention, try focusing on the beats/sounds. You can also play the tracks and silently repeat your favorite meditation mantra.
Condition Your Mind for a Snooze with Sleep Sessions
If a thousand ideas are running through your head every night and you need some help getting enough rest, you can give Brain.fm’s Sleep sessions a try. As mentioned above, it was designed to mimic a “rocking cradle” effect and sustain slow-wave sleep activity. Brain.fm’s sleep session protocol was developed with Northwestern University’s Dr. Giovanni Santostasi, who has been studying acoustic intervention during sleep. (Source: EEG Analysis for Brain.fm)
But listening to Brain.fm alone won’t cure your insomnia. If you’ve been given sleep medications, continue taking them. (Source: Brain.fm for Sleep) Stick to your bedtime routine. This may mean going to bed at the same hour, disconnecting from the internet, and putting your gadgets and apps in silent mode.
But what about listening to Brain.fm? The good news is, the Brain.fm app’s Pro plan lets you download tracks so you can play these offline.
Especially if you’ve just started creating a nighttime routine, you may not fall asleep at once even with a Brain.fm App Sleep session playing in your ears. Don’t let this stress you. Just relax and enjoy the music. Don’t force sleep… it will come on its own.
Aside for a night of full sleep, you can also use the Sleep tracks if you need to take a short nap. These power naps are known to boost focus too. You can adjust Brain.fm’s timer to suit the length of time you want to rest.
If you’re not sure if Brain.fm app will work for you, test it by signing up for free using your email or Facebook account. This gives you five sessions, a broad selection of tracks to choose from all three modes: Focus, Relax, and Sleep. You can use it either on your desktop or on a mobile device. Try it while conquering your most difficult (or boring) tasks, while meditating, and before going to bed. Take note of tracks that work for you and which ones don’t.
The paid version gives you offline access to the tracks. There is no cap to the sessions, so you can play these for as long as you need to. If you just want to test it for a few weeks, go for their monthly plan, which will cost you $6.99. Only if it truly works for you then you can consider a yearly plan first ($49.99).
(Image source: https://www.brain.fm/app/learn)
Other Users Who Loved the App
Brain.fm has been helping people across different professions, from business owners to world-class athletes.
CEO Brit Morin of Brit + Co, a media company in San Francisco, shared using the music at work: “It’s been fascinating to play the music while trying to get work done; it’s like an instant ability to focus in a way I’ve never experienced before.” (Source: Entrepreneur)
In the 2016 Rio tournament, the U.S. Olympic wrestling team also used Brain.fm to help them sleep. “Sleep is critical to the recovery of our athletes after hard practices, and this was the main thing I wanted to address leading up to and during Rio 2016,” team coach Matt Lindland had told Newsweek.
The team’s captain, Robby Smith, had also shifted to Brain.fm tracks to help him focus and wind down. “I listen to the focus sessions before practise to help me get in the zone. Then after practise, I use the relaxation sessions to focus my breath and calm myself down.” (Source: Newsweek)
Below are a few more reviews from other Brain.fm users.
Sometimes, having too many options is a bad thing. If you simply want some music playing in the background as you work on something that requires your brain to focus, try focusmusic.fm. You only have four channels to choose from: electronic, downtempo, classical, and rain.
Within these channels are several tracks, and you can skip to the next one by clicking the fast-forward button. You can also let the tracks shift automatically and focus on your work.
Speaking of convenience, this free site also has a mobile app for iOS and Android, and you can enable it for use in your Alexa devices.
This music service also leverages science to help people reach their flow state faster. Each individual will have a preferred music that helps them stay attentive, and focus@will factors this in. You will be answering some questions and, based on your personality, you will be given a channel that’s scientifically engineered to help you concentrate. Meanwhile, you can still access other channels and see if any of these work for you too. They also have a recommended channel to help individuals with ADD/ADHD.
Focus@will has a free 1-week trial, after which you’ll be charged annually. You can listen to their music via your mobile phone or desktop. If you are also into tracking your productive hours, you can use their built-in tracker and timer.
If you have no problem staying focused and productive but struggle relaxing and getting some badly needed sleep, try Insight Timer. This mobile meditation app has over 20,000 free music tracks, guided meditation, and talks.
This forever-free service also has a premium version for those who wish to access mindfulness courses and listen to tracks offline.
Finding the Right App for Your Needs
Companies like Brain.fm are pushing the boundaries of science, sounds, and brain activity. They use research and technology to develop musical compositions that augment the impact of sounds on our brains, so we can better achieve our goals. Because quite frankly, if dance music can keep you awake when you pull an all-nighter but it won’t help you finish your tasks, you will need to turn it off.
Brain.fm is not a miracle pill for our productivity and relaxation problems. But with it, maybe we’ll lean less on caffeine to boost our attention. Maybe we can cut the amount of time we waste forcing our brain to focus until reaching our flow state starts getting easier each day. If we need help silencing the relentless chatter in our heads, we can rely on our willpower plus Brain.fm’s tracks engineered for meditation.
Once in a while, we do need help creating new habits that help us build the lives we want. Whatever you’re struggling with–low productivity, short attention span, anxiety, lack of sleep–a solution is waiting for you at Brain.fm. And you can use it anytime, anywhere, even if you don’t have an internet connection.
You need not to rely on willpower alone to change your habits. Let Brain.fm’s technology help you, so you can channel more of that willpower toward other important decisions.
As you shift your playlist, don’t worry about missing your favorite songs and podcasts. You can always turn to those during a long commute, while exercising, or doing your home chores.
Wrapping Up: My Experience With Brain.fm
In this review, I gave you an overall view of what Brain.fm, what are its benefits is and why I became so enthusiast about this app.
Before turning to Brain.fm I used to struggle with meditating for more than 5 minutes without stopping and getting into reactive-mode for doing something work-related.
As well, I used to struggle with switching between work and relaxation.
I tried using binaural beats to cope with this with and noticed a slight improvement. However, Brain.fm has a more solid scientific basis than binaural that actually makes sense (binaural beats had mixed results in scientific research, while Brain.fm uses a different technology.)
My thought with productivity tools, it’s always the same: if it can make you even just 5% more productive, it’s worth already this small monthly price.
Brain.fm has been an invaluable companion for me, and for such a low price point, I consider it to be a must-have in your arsenal if you’re serious about productivity.