ASMR feels like sitting in front of the open fire or having a relaxing evening with your best friends. You feel relaxed, safe and carefree.
If the term doesn’t mean anything to you, ASMR is an experience to stimulate your mind through conscious whispering and other sounds. Not everyone reacts to it though.
In this article, you will learn what ASMR is, whether you respond to it, what benefits it has, and how scientists see the topic. Finally, we will give you some tips on how to use it in your daily life.
If you are here because you have trouble falling asleep: many people use it daily to help them fall asleep more easily.
Jump ahead to any of the sections below:
- What Does ASMR Mean?
- How Does ASMR Work?
- The Tingling Sensation: Science of ASMR
- ASMR Test: Does Everyone Have ASMR?
- Popular ASMR Triggers
- Advantages of ASMR
- ASMR Sessions: How to Use It Correctly
What Does ASMR Mean?
The meaning behind the term is quite simple. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It describes a feeling of tingling and relaxation by perceiving sounds such as whispering, knocking, scratching or rain. Even hair combing can trigger an ASMR stimulus.
When these sounds are recorded with a sensitive microphone and then played via video or audio, they become even more intense.
A definition of ASMR is:
“An experience that creates a tingling sensation while listening to certain sounds that usually begin at the head and then spread further down the body, putting the listener in a state of relaxation.”
How Does ASMR Work?
Do you know that moment when you’re at a concert, getting goosebumps and feeling completely tingly because your favorite song is playing? This scientific phenomenon that is triggered by music is called piloerection.
ASMR works in a similar way.
There are so-called “ASMR Artists” who make certain sounds to trigger such piloerection. Most of them use their voice to speak softly and quietly or even whisper. This may be in a slow pace, normal or fast and with varying emotions and volumes.
Most ASMR artists address the viewer directly in their videos. After creating certain noises with a brush, for example, they wipe the camera with their brush to also address the viewer. In this way, they want to stimulate the viewer visually in addition to the already existing audio stimulation. Depending on the speed, volume, and type of stimulation, ASMR can have different effects on you. It may even cause an, uh, “tingling sensation down there“.
However, the effect remains the same for most people: it relieves and causes a tingle in the body, for those who react to it.
In the following video from W magazine the singer Cardi B is holding an ASMR session.
The session takes place in a quiet environment, without any wind, background noise and with a professional ASMR microphone. Cardi B speaks very close to it as she whispers at different speeds. Throughout the video, she not only uses her voice to create the ASMR triggers but also a carpet and a toy that she gets towards the end of the video. She then knocks and scratches on it to create the desired sounds.
We get the impression that this is not her first time holding an ASMR session…
What’s your impression of this video? Did you feel something?
The video has almost only positive reactions and in the comments, you read that viewers can actually fall asleep from it. In the next chapter, you will learn why this is so and why you may have experienced a positive reaction.
The Tingling Sensation: Science of ASMR
Although there are countless YouTube channels on this subject these days, some with millions of subscribers, the topic is largely unexplored from a scientific point of view.
We read through various studies and summarized them for you. However, most of the studies have not yet been completed.
Here are the most important statements at a glance:
What Triggers Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)?
Scientists assume that ASMR evokes your childhood. That’s why ASMR sounds put you in a relaxed state. With videos, the actions and sounds may subconsciously remind you of childhood events with your parents and calm you down. In most cases it is the quiet whispering of your parents, putting you to sleep.
What Effects of ASMR Have Been Scientifically Confirmed?
When a person shows the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, their pulse decreases. The stress level decreases as well. In addition, many online communities have confirmed that it helps against insomnia as well as depression and burnout.
Results of scientific studies on the effects of ASMR on grief and depression are still lacking. There is also no scientific explanation as to why some react to it and others do not.
Since When Does ASMR Exist?
The term was first used around 2012.
In order to better classify the hype around the topic, here is an excerpt from Google Trends. This shows the worldwide search queries in the past five years on the topic of ASMR.
As you can see, it has started to spread massively only in the last years and accordingly many of the scientific studies have not yet been carried out.
ASMR Test: Does Everyone Have ASMR?
Not everyone reacts to ASMR. That’s why we have put together three categories of questions to help you find out how it affects you and your body. We recommend wearing headphones while watching the video for the best results.
What did you feel while watching the video with Cardi B?
Positive Reaction to ASMR
- Did you feel a tingling sensation (usually starts in your head or rather at the scalp)?
- Do you feel tired?
- Do you feel relaxed?
- Do you feel carefree?
- Do you feel safe?
- Do you feel happy?
Neutral Reaction to ASMR
If you didn’t sense anything special, then you had a neutral reaction. With neutral reactions, you can watch the video as often as you want without feeling any different than before. You just like to watch the videos without gaining any special advantages.
Negative Reaction to ASMR
- Are you feeling weird?
- Do you feel scared?
- Do you feel bored?
- Are you angry?
Don’t be disappointed if you don’t feel positive reactions. ASMR does not work for everyone.
Popular ASMR Triggers
If you felt “the tingling” during the session, you may be wondering what caused it.
Maybe you even remember situations where you felt the same way. ASMR cannot only be triggered by listening or looking passively at something. If you know the triggers that work best for you, you can consciously evoke those moments.
Here is a list of popular ASMR triggers:
- Whispering (no matter if inaudible)
- Gentle tapping on different materials
- Performing repetitive tasks (such as folding a towel)
- Role plays with lowered voice/whisper
- Slimes (slime toy)
- Proximity to the head
- Presentation of gentle touches – Reiki is another technique for stress relief based on sending energy by gentle touches. Here’s the link to our Reiki article
- Comb your hair
- Concentration on one task
- Head massage
- The artist on YouTube Bob Ross
The most well-known trigger, however, remains whispering.
Do you have other triggers in mind? Let us know in the comments.
Advantages of ASMR
ASMR has many advantages. That is because each person reacts differently. While it may help you to fall asleep, it can cause your friends to experience a state of increased concentration.
Here is an overview of the most common benefits:
- Tackling sleep disorders
- Stress reduction
- Dealing with anxiety
- A release of feelings of happiness
- Emotional improvement
- A feeling of affection and care
- Sexual excitement
- Pain relief
- Increased concentration
At this point, however, we would like to emphasize one advantage: there are countless users who report that ASMR helps them to fall asleep. In fact, we discovered an online survey in which 30% of the users said that they use ASMR daily to fall asleep. Although we would rather make a scientific statement, there are no studies available yet.
ASMR Sessions and How to Use It Correctly
You can experience the effects in two ways: passive or active. Simply put, this means that either you create the triggers yourself or you watch ASMR videos.
For an active session, go to a quiet environment. Take as much time as you want and try different triggers. Use the one that works best for you. We have already listed some examples of triggers you can start with. For example, take a plastic box and drum lightly with your fingers on it.
Probably the biggest disadvantage of the active session is that the most popular trigger, whispering, doesn’t work because you have to listen to another person whispering.
The passive session is more popular, especially among beginners.
Even though there are apps with sounds and pure audio videos, YouTube videos by ASMR artists are the best source to start with. There are countless channels, in many different languages, orientations, and styles. Many videos are relatively long because longer videos give viewers more time to fall asleep.
At first glance, it may sound strange to listen to a person eating pasta while trying to fall asleep, but In the end, all that matters is whether you benefit from it or not.
Here are some of the use cases of ASMR.
ASMR in Movies
To lighten the load, here’s a video where ASMR appears in movies! Although not intended, we find it interesting to see how ubiquitous the topic actually is.
Classic ASMR Videos
Classic ASMR videos come from a person, mostly female, who always appears in the videos and softly speaks or whispers into a microphone. She is sensitive and uses different elements and objects to create sounds like knocking, scratching or smacking.
The best-known YouTuber is ASMR Darling. Here is one of her most famous video:
In fact, even ASMR meditations exist. When you respond to ASMR, you get practically double the amount of relaxation with this technique. Meditation alone is super relaxing and one of the best ways to reduce stress. Since ASMR is also a way to relax, you should definitely give this type of meditation a try.
Water per se has ASMR-triggering characteristics. Other natural sounds, such as the crackling of a fire, also help to cause “the tingling”. Here is a video of gentle rain to help you relax:
ASMR helps not only some adults to relax, but also children. If you have children who fall asleep badly, you should give this video a try:
The first time we heard about ASMR, we were watching a woman eating a cucumber. At first, we were surprised that there are millions of people who watched this video and seriously reported how it helps them fall asleep or reduces their stress.
After reading this article, you’re probably surprised at how versatile the topic is. In fact, it helps many people with their sleep disorders and can be used in many other areas of life.
We hope we were able to get you excited about this rather unexplored topic and would be happy if you would tell us about your experiments with ASMR. What did you use it for? What exactly did you feel? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about mindfulness.
Enjoy trying it out.