ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridan response” ; the term refers to the pleasant tingling sensation experienced along the spine and scalp which is activated when stimulated by different means. These brain/spine tingles are triggered by different audio and visual experiences and sensations such as whispering, crinkling, tapping, blowing/clicks/mouth sounds, paper noises and pen scratching- individuals have different triggers that they find soothing and relaxing. ASMR videos are sometimes binaural recordings, which is a method of recording sounds using two microphones to simulate a 3D environment, so that sounds can be manipulated specifically for both ears.
The sensation of ASMR can be likened to a form of synesthesia- a condition where the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an automatic and involuntary responses in another part of the brain. ASMR isn’t something that is experienced by everyone, and there isn’t one single stimulus which everyone responds to, thus making ASMR difficult to test or measure.
Although there have been no formal clinical studies to investigate ASMR and its effects, many individual testimonies report feelings of being relaxed and comforted, providing relief of depression and anxiety as well as support with insomnia and panic attacks. Psychiatrist Dr Michael Yasinski can see the potential positive benefits of ASMR having a similar effect as meditation, which helps to switch off the parts of the brain responsible for anxiety and stress through gentle focus and relaxation. ASMR can be used a gateway activity to meditation, helping people to time out to unwind.
ASMR trigger videos can include breathing awareness, muscle relaxation and invites the viewer/listener to spend some time focusing on something positive, which can improve concentration and stress levels, as well as helping to relax for sleep. There are some ASMR videos which simulate companionship and personal care, where ASMR artists role play scenarios in which the viewer receives personal attention, such as role-playing being at the hairdresser’s or doctor’s or in a spa. These kinds of simulations can help with depression and anxiety, as it provides relaxation which can be accessed anytime, anywhere with the power of the Internet.
ASMR isn’t something that everyone responds too, although the whispering and calming nature of ASMR videos can still be enjoyed and used to help ease insomnia. Start by watching different kinds of ASMR videos to find out what your brain and body respond to; what can be relaxing for one person can be irritating to another, and there is a wide variety of ASMR videos available online via YouTube to explore. Find a voice that you like the sound of, or scenarios that appeal to you, or experiment to see what range of binaural sounds cause you to experience the distinct and pleasurable tingles of ASMR. It is generally advised to watch/listen ASMR videos before going to sleep so that you can immerse yourself in relaxation and appreciate your inner peace.