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Chances are you probably know someone who enjoys ASMR videos and might even have recommended that you watch some to relax or help you sleep. If you search ASMR on YouTube, you’ll be met with millions of results, many of them with millions of views each. The content? People whispering, getting massages, their bones cracked, crumpling paper, chewing food, scratching wood, and a plethora of other small, seemingly random actions while really close to a microphone.
This short guide will show you what ASMR is, how does it work, and what benefits it can bring for some people to relax, help with insomnia and even moderately improve your mood. Without further ado, let’s go deeper inside this trend that took the internet by storm.
ASMR, while not a scientific name in itself, stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it’s defined as “the tingling sensation in the crown of the head, back and upper spine that results from experiencing audio-visual triggers.” What triggers are those? It depends on who you ask, but they can be (very broadly) categorized as soft, very textured sounds, such as the whispers mentioned above, but also lightly tapping on glass, rubbing certain objects together and even the sound of breathing.
The most common way that people enjoy ASMR is through videos on YouTube, where many creators have big enough followings to warrant millions of views per video, allowing them to dedicate their full time to making them. In these videos, the sounds will be accompanied by a close-up of the objects making the sound, or in the case of whisper videos, even follow a sort of narrative and have the creator dressed in some form of attire, some of which can be surprisingly complex and lengthy.
Many people found out, mostly through internet discussion, that there was no name for the tingling, static-y sensation caused by a wide array of auditive, tactile and visual stimuli. When it was established that the triggers for people ranged from the generally pleasant to the wildly specific, you can say that this started a sort of arms race to uncover every last one, with feedback from the audience being a valuable tool that helped creators expand their efforts while also finding their niche.
According to some of the creators of these videos, their main motivators are two. First, of course, is simply the entertainment value that they provide to a very active community; second, however, is the responses they get from people such as depressed teens, single mothers, army pilots and many more, who thank them for helping relax and improve their moods even for a couple of minutes a day.
Today, thousands of people who had never even heard of ASMR are finding their way to these videos and sound recordings that are being created in troves and finding themselves pleasantly surprised by how their body and mind react to them. While for some the triggers are very well defined and physically specific, for others ASMR is all about the feeling of closeness, caring and the sensation of being paid attention that does it.
For how popular ASMR, you’d expect the purported effects to be more consistent than what is reported by people. While some say that it’s a great relaxation and sleep aid (not only to fall asleep but to enter deep sleep), others simply like them because it helps relieve stress and get in the flow of things while at work. A smaller but significant percentage of people say that ASMR helps improve their mood for a few hour, but the effects lessen over time.
These are just some of the effects, though, and while there is no extensive research done on the phenomenon yet, no negative effects have been reported at all. The best way to know what ASMR can do for you is start with a simple, short video that tries a little bit of everything, find out what your triggers are, and go further from there. The worst that can happen is that you, like some people, get bored or “weirded out” and leave it at that, since not all people experience ASMR regardless of the stimuli.
In short, the benefits of ASMR depend on one question: Does everyone have ASMR? The answer seems to be “no”, but like all other methods for relaxation, this doesn’t mean that what works for one person should work for everyone.
Where does it all stop? It’s hard to say right now, but the scientific community is starting to finally pay attention to ASMR and the people that want to know more about its effects on their mind and body. Meanwhile, the community is still going strong, looking to uncover any trigger that’s out there in order to give everybody a place and some very needed comfort. And if ASMR just isn’t your thing, there are plenty of techniques out there that can help you relax just as well.