It seems that recently YouTube got overflooded with ASMR videos, they are a trending topic, and everybody is filming weird versions of it. If you are still hesitating whether or not you should click and play that recommended ASMR video, you have come to the right place. In this article, you will learn what is ASMR, and how it aids sleep.
We have been overflowed with similar overhyped abbreviations before, remember YOLO, FOMO, etc.? We guess now the ASMR got its five minutes, but how did it become so widely popular and how can it be related to sleep?
There are so many different ways to help us fall asleep, from melatonin supplements to acupuncture, but it can take some time until you find the right one for you, one of the easiest and most available ways is to play an ASMR video. Currently, there are around 51 million of ASMR videos on YouTube, with even more millions of views, so plenty to choose from if you decide to enter this world. Those videos also vary in their content, and you might see and hear someone just chewing pickles, or whispering about some random things, so be prepared to see some things too closely and hear some weird stuff. And, although it all can be described as too odd, somehow it works, since people love to watch those annoying, and at the same time satisfying videos. Another important thing to mention is that ASMR videos or recordings are longer than the average YouTube video, they last roughly around one hour, so you can listen to them long enough to relax while you are falling asleep.
What is ASMR?
To solve the central enigma first, ASMR stands for the autonomous sensory meridian response, and the term was coined in 2010 by a healthcare worker Jennifer Allen. However, that is not the first time it was mentioned since it was mentioned in a novel from 1926, called Mrs. Dalloway. Also, have you ever watched some of the Bob Ross painting tutorials? That is ASMR at its best, and he can be perceived as a forerunner of what the ASMRtists are doing today. This somewhat bizarre digital phenomenon is now changing the way we go to sleep, pushing away traditional sleep inducing tricks such as yoga and meditation.
The ASMR is still relatively new, but it already gained enormous popularity, and people are curious to try it out.
If the definition behind the abbreviation was not helpful, we are going to simplify it, ASMR provides the feeling of relaxation followed by tingling sensations which a person can experience while watching specific videos or hearing certain sounds, an emotional and physical reaction to a gentle stimulus. But, those sounds and videos are not the typical YouTube content. In ASMR videos, people are slowly doing some basic tasks, such as flipping the pages of a magazine, cutting vegetables, cutting soap bars, folding towels or brushing hair. The atmosphere is always calming, relaxing, quiet, and if people talk in those videos, they are always whispering which may sound creepy sometimes.
People can experience ASMR in two ways, through meditation or just by thinking about some pleasant scene or sound, and through videos and recordings of whispering stories. Nobody is sure how and why ASMR works, it could be that those sounds act comforting and as a lullaby for adults, or some of the performed tasks reminds us of something from our childhood.
ASMR will not work for everyone, and it all may sound too abstract and ridiculous until you experience it first-hand. Most people who have experienced it, say that those tingling sensations begin in your scalp, and then they travel throughout the body, to the legs and arms. As a result, people feel genuinely more relaxed before bedtime, and they sleep more soundly. Researchers are still trying to find out exactly how it works, and it appears that this phenomenon has been present since forever, but it was discovered recently.
One of the theories implies that ASMR initially functions as a bonding process between people. Most of the common ASMR techniques include low voices and touching, and for the outcome, we have positive feelings such as happiness, safety, feel of safeness, etc. and those are all the things that people who are close to each other or in relationships experience frequently. Another theory claims that the ASMR sensations take us back to childhood, since we relate those triggers to some emotional, carefree, happy and restful memories, people feel again the euphoria they have not felt since their childhood.
Although it owes its popularity to YouTube videos, ASMR can be reached and triggered through numerous ways off the screen. We differ three main categories of ASMR triggers, and most people will react just to one of them, while the other two would not cause any response.
- Visual – this first group gathers a bunch of visual stimulants such as eye contact, writing, hand movement, page flipping, etc.
- Auditory – this group stands for any stimuli that we can hear, such as whispering, crinkling, tapping, chewing, blowing, scratching, and so on.
- Tactile – this group covers various acts, from massages and light touches, to grooming pets, or playing with hair. Also, the feel of different textures can as well be a trigger.
There is plenty of things that can trigger the ASMR response, but they all share some characteristics, they are all repetitive, gentle, with a low volume or without it. A survey showed that the most popular ASMR trigger is whispering, followed by some repetitive, slow movements, and crispy sounds.
Can We All Experience ASMR?
The truth is that we can, or at least we should be able, but it all depends on how strong the stimulus has to be so that you can feel it. Sometimes you have to find out what is the right trigger for you because we are all capable of producing those neurochemicals which are presumed to be responsible for the ASMR effect. Neurochemicals such as endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all provide the feelings of sedation, pleasure, and relaxation.
Endorphins are responsible for the production of dopamine, tingling sensations and euphoria, oxytocin is the so-called bonding hormone, it increases the feeling of trust and stimulates the release of serotonin, dopamine gives you the motivation while the serotonin gives you the sense of well-being and satisfaction. But, the receptors in our brain are capable of becoming less sensitive when they are overly exposed to the same stimulus. That is why people who take certain medications like painkillers, have to increase their dosage over time to get the same effect. If you are interested in experiencing the ASMR, you can train your brain by exposing yourself repeatedly to the same ASMR trigger. If you want to increase your chances, you can try it in an environment that is safe and cozy for you, while comfortably sitting or laying in bed.
Research by psychologist Craig Richard showed that 40% of people who experience ASMR had also experienced a decrease or disappearance of the ASMR effects at some point. That is because the more we watch those videos, our brain and body develop a higher tolerance to it, causing its effects to fade away. However you can easily repeal the effect by not watching or listening ASMR videos for at least one week, after that, you will be able to feel tingling sensations all over.
So unless you have some particular medical condition, there is no reason why you should not be able to experience the ASMR effects, you have to find the proper trigger and the right intensity of it. It is like with anything else in life, for example, salty food, what may taste too salty for one person, can taste mildly or not salty at all for someone else.
ASMR for Sleep
ASMR can be used generally for relaxation and de-stressing, but the most common reason why people reach for it is that it can function as a sleep aid. If you have any type of sleep-related problems, difficulties with falling asleep or even insomnia, ASMR will get you in the right mental and physical state and prepare you for sleep.
ASMR video clips are very alike to guided meditation which has been proven to help with sleep difficulties.
Since ASMR videos are nowadays filmed about probably any topic that you can imagine, try narrowing your search by seeking the ones that claim to help with falling asleep faster and more profound. If you do not want to expose yourself to blue light before bedtime, skip videos and download voice recordings on your smartphone or play them on Spotify. ASMR will not only induce your sleep, but it will also relieve stress and chronic pains while promoting sleep.
You can create your own ASMR bedtime routine based on your preferences and considering which type of stimuli, visual or auditory, does the trick for you. Even 80% of people who watch ASMR videos reported that they play them to sleep better.
Similarities to Misophonia and Frisson
Misophonia is an adverse emotional reaction to some unpleasant auditory triggers, and it is usually associated with Tourette’s syndrome and many other neuropsychiatric disorders. These triggers include most random sounds such as tapping, chewing, whispering or engine roaring, so whatever works in a positive way for the ASMR audience, can affect negatively people who suffer from misophonia.
Another, more similar experience, is called frisson, it represents the experience of goosebumps and shivering when a person is having a brief and pleasurable emotional response to some stimuli like music. Although it seems that they appear through the same physiological mechanisms, frisson and ASMR do not have much in common according to the people who experienced both of them, they claim that they have different kinds of triggers.
Can ASMR be Uncomfortable?
We mentioned the three main categories of stimuli, usually only one will work for you while others will not cause any reaction. However, some people are claiming that they find some ASMR videos too creepy, disturbing and uncomfortable to watch or listen.
If you are new to the ASMR and still trying to find your niche, certain repetitive actions followed by whispering may cause the opposite feeling from what you were hoping to feel. People reported that they expected to be relaxed, but eventually they did not experience any of the tingling sensations or calmness, instead, they were spooked out. They also had troubles watching these videos longer than 5 minutes, especially the ones which included roleplay.
How you perceive a video is highly individual, so if you are looking at a stranger who is speaking softly and staring at you, your reaction depends on the way you perceive that person, as a sincere or insincere. If you find person’s behavior to be genuine, then you should not have any problems with relaxing, however, if your brain perceives the person as insincere, then you will creep out because your brain is signaling that that person is just pretending to be safe. Some ASMRtists have more following and subscribers because they manage to appear more reliable and trustworthy.
So it does not have to mean that ASMR is not for you if you disliked the first video you have seen. Numerous factors need to match, and as we have seen now, it also depends a lot on the person you are listening and watching.