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What is ASMR and how does it affect sleep?

By Abbie Stutzer | 2 Minute Read

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is a relatively newly discovered, much debated condition. 

What is ASMR?

According to a 2015 article in the journal Social Neuroscience, people who experience ASMR are affected by very specific visual and auditory stimuli. This stimuli can trigger tingling or static-like feelings that travel from a person’s scalp, down their neck, and to their spine. The “ASMR experience” is different from other sensory experiences, such as frisson, which is the tingling sensation, chills people feel when they listen to music. 

According to a 2017 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, the two “phenomena” (ASMR and frisson) are different for three reasons:

  • Frisson related tingles tend to spread quickly thorough a person’s body. ASMR tingles can last for several minutes. 
  • ASMR experiences are described as “wave-like” and “dynamic.”
  • ASMR sensations are associated with contentment and relaxation. 

Also, the things that trigger these tingling feelings are typically “socially intimate” and involve movements or sounds that are repeated.

Although this “condition” has most likely been around for a while, it first appeared in online communities in 2010; some of these online groups have over 100,000 members. 

In addition to online communities, people with ASMR also have access to learn about the condition and its various media (ASMR videos, etc.) at ASMR University, a website that’s dedicated to being an ASMR resource and news center. 

ASMR media

Over the past few years, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos and media have become quite popular. The videos are famous for their strange content—someone brushing their hair, typing on a keyboard, making “crisp” noises, moving slowly, or whispering. It’s this content that gives viewers the previously mentioned sensations. 

Most ASMR video viewers also report feeling an intense state of calm while watching ASMR videos; others say ASMR videos put them in a positive mood, or that the videos help them sleep. 

Until recently, few scientific studies have examined how ASMR videos help people. In the following section, we’ll go over a few recent studies that examine how ASMR media works and if they can cause sleepiness. 

ASMR media helps people sleep and relax

Although there’s little research that supports that ASMR videos actually help people with the condition, the research that does exist helps us glean that the videos, and associated ASMR media, can help people relax. And as we know, relaxation and feeling less anxiety can help a person sleep.

Why people watch ASMR videos 

A 2015 study in the journal PeerJ asked a group of study participants (245 men, 222 women, 8 individuals of non-binary gender) various questions about ASMR. Researchers discovered that 98 percent of study participants “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they sought out ASMR to relax. And 82 percent of the study participants “agreed” that they used ASMR to help them sleep. Eighty-one percent of study participants also said they preferred using ASMR before going to sleep at night. 

The 2017 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology we referenced earlier posits that if additional ASMR studies are done, they should examine the potential therapeutic benefits of ASMR. These studies could potentially help ASMR videos, etc., become another type of therapy that could help relieve stress and stress-related disorders.

Popular ASMR YouTube channels

Gentle Whispering ASMR

Gibi ASMR

Heather Feather ASMR

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