One of the greatest things about YouTube is the wide variety of content available on the platform. From movie reviews to tutorial videos to funny skits made by a group of friends, YouTube has something for everyone to enjoy.
If you regularly watch content on YouTube, chances are, you’ve become aware of the increasingly popular phenomenon known as ASMR. Maybe you’ve even watched a few ASMR videos yourself or are just wondering what the hype is all about.
This guide will help explain what ASMR really is, how it’s helping millions of people relax and sleep better at night, and even how you can practice it yourself.
- 1 What Is ASMR?
- 2 Types of ASMR Triggers
- 3 Common and Different Sensory Triggers
- 4 Unintentional Triggers
- 5 The Origins Of ASMR
- 6 Health Benefits
- 7 How Can ASMR Help You Sleep?
- 8 Does ASMR Work For Everyone?
- 9 How to Practice ASMR
- 10 Conclusion
What Is ASMR?
ASMR stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response,” which is a physiological response to certain sounds, videos, or sensations that you find pleasing or relaxing.
When you experience ASMR, you may feel a sort of euphoric tingling or static-like sensation, which begins on the scalp and moves down the back of your neck and upper spine areas to the rest of your body.
Types of ASMR Triggers
The most common way people trigger this response is by watching ASMR videos on YouTube or on other video platforms.
Some examples of popular ASMR categories and videos include:
- A person (typically a soft-spoken woman) whispering nice things to you like, “You are appreciated” or “You’re going to be okay.”
- Tapping, brushing, or gently scratching their microphone.
- Performing simple but calming tasks, like reading a book or folding laundry.
- A loop of calming ASMR sounds, like rain or ocean waves.
- Constructing elaborate but comforting storylines or roleplay scenarios between the viewer and the content creator.
Different people have different ASMR triggers – or, stimuli that cause this tingling sensation. These stimuli can be categorized into two different types: internally initiated ASMR and externally initiated ASMR.
Internally Initiated ASMR
This is an activity you might do to yourself to trigger that pleasant ASMR response, either on accident or on purpose.
Things like meditation, focused thinking, grooming yourself, or massaging your head may trigger such a response.
Externally Initiated ASMR
This type of ASMR is basically any external activity that triggers an ASMR response. Any stimulus that is performed by another person or one that is not in your control is considered an externally initiated ASMR trigger.
This can come in the form of either in-person ASMR or the far more popular ASMR transmissions, which are basically recordings or live streams of certain ASMR triggers.
Common and Different Sensory Triggers
As stated before, people will all have their own unique set of ASMR triggers.
The most popular triggers tend to be more auditory and visual in nature, though your specific trigger could be caused by any of your five senses.
Common auditory (or heard) triggers include:
- Listening to a soft-spoken or whispering monotone voice or podcast.
- Listening to quiet, repetitive sounds, usually from someone doing a mundane, everyday task such as turning the pages of a book.
- Listening to someone make loud smacking, chewing, crunching, or blowing sounds with their mouths.
- Listening to someone tap or scratch their microphone or a wooden, metal, or plastic surface.
- Listening to someone cutting or crinkling paper or plastic bags.
Common visual triggers include:
- Making eye contact with someone.
- Watching someone’s hand movements as they speak.
- Watching as someone completes a simple task like cooking or folding clean laundry.
Some ASMR content creators even combine the two to develop attentive and personal roleplay videos. These roleplays can range from something simple—like pretending to cut your hair or clip your nails for you—to complex fantasy or science fiction storylines meant to act as comforting escapism fantasies.
The more popular ASMR roleplays involve the “ASMRtist” pretending to give their audience essential clinical or medical services, such as a check-up or patching you up after an accident or battle (if you are into the fantasy ASMR roleplays).
You may also find that you get an unintentional ASMR from merely interacting with others in your everyday life. For instance, tactile ASMR triggers are often discovered on accident.
Examples of common tactile ASMR triggers include:
- Someone lightly touching or massaging you (i.e. a hairdresser as they are cutting your hair or a masseuse giving you a much-needed back massage).
- Grooming yourself (i.e. combing your hair, putting on make-up, etc.).
There are plenty of videos and stimulus made for the sole purpose of trigging an ASMR, but you may very well find there are some things that unintentionally trigger this response.
Often, these unintentional triggers then act as an ASMR gateway, of sorts, and many people find they enjoy the experience!
Bob Ross’s painting videos are often cited as unintentional ASMR triggers. From his easygoing, calming voice to his methodical paint strokes, it is not hard to see why many ASMR enthusiasts find his tutorials to be a good trigger for them.
Many people also find that make-up and hair tutorials on YouTube can be great visual ASMR triggers as well. After all, a nice-looking person wanting to help you learn how to flawlessly draw in your eyebrows or swirl your hair up into an elegant bun can be a calming experience on its own.
In fact, most people who experience externally-initiated ASMR tend to find that content creators who are kind, empathic, attentive, dedicated, and calm to be especially comforting triggers, regardless if they are “ASMRtists” or not.
The Origins Of ASMR
The first attempt to explain the sensation of ASMR was in October 2007, where a forum thread on steadyhealth.com sparked a conversation among its users about “brain orgasms.”
Other names like “brain massage”, “head tingle”, “brain tingle”, and “spine tingle” began to crop up around the same time as well.
Scientific communities studying the phenomenon would refer to the response as “auditory-induced head orgasm,” “attention induced euphoria,” or “attention-induced observant euphoria.”
Because the ASMR sensation was initially likened to orgasming between 2007 to 2010, many people believed that it was a tool to induce sexual arousal.
Many ASMR enthusiasts were persistent in their defense of their community as a wholesome, relaxing one, and it seems to have finally paid off – given its huge popularity and success.
In fact, a research paper later published by graduate student Emma Barratt and Dr. Nick Davis of Swansea University found that only 5 percent of participants in their study reported using ASMR videos for sexual stimulation.
An overwhelming majority of their subjects really were able to relax using various, non-sexual ASMR aids or triggers. However, as of 2015, some ASMR creators have started creating new types of ASMR videos they call “ASMRotica”, or ASMR erotica.
These videos are deliberately made to sexually stimulate their audience in much the same way as pornography would.
The term “ASMR” was first coined by Jennifer Allen, who meticulously crafted this acronym to ensure others outside of the community would not misconstrue ASMR as a purely sexual tool.
The name has since stuck around and has honestly elevated the community from obscurity and its formerly sordid title.
Now more and more people are watching or listening to ASMR videos and podcasts, and ASMR content is continuing to branch out. Truly the world of ASMR is a diverse space!
This video goes into more details on the ASMR experience.
Since then, a handful of researchers have studied this phenomenon and found that there are multiple health benefits to the ASMR experience.
For instance, researchers at the University of Sheffield and Manchester Metropolitan University published an ASMR study, where they found that subjects who experienced ASMR demonstrated reduced heart rates and stress levels, increased feelings of social connectedness, and better sleep all around.
Because of these results, researchers hope that ASMR triggers could one day be prescribed as treatment methods or sleep aids to those who suffer from severe anxiety or insomnia, respectively.
Dr. Craig Richard of Shenandoah University in Virginia has been studying the ASMR phenomenon for over five years now. You can find the results of his dedicated studies on his website, ASMRUniversity.com.
Here, he aims to explain the biological science behind the ASMR sensation, its short-term and long-term effects, and generally keep the ASMR community up-to-date on all the latest news and studies regarding this phenomenon.
How Can ASMR Help You Sleep?
Having scientists and researchers back up the phenomenon is all well and good, but just how can you use ASMR to sleep better at night?
ASMR relaxation is ultimately an intimate, personal experience. Your specific ASMR triggers are meant to engage a feeling of complete relaxation.
Many people often use this to help them sleep at night, which is why the ASMR videos you click on sometimes go on for an hour or longer.
Some ASMR content creators use binaural recording in their videos, which is a simulation of the acoustics of a typical three-dimensional environment.
Basically, binaural recordings are made using two microphones, specially designed to mimic ears on humans. They are often separated at the same distance as the ears are on your head, and are even surrounded by ear-shaped cups to get similar reverb as human ears.
The audio picked up from these microphones are not mixed, but instead, remain separate to create a dual-audio effect. This simulation can make you feel as if you, the viewer, are actually near the “ASMRtist.”
The illusion allows you to believe you’re listening to a live sound nearby, rather than in a simple recording.
These recordings are created for the sole purpose of being heard through headphones, rather than your computer’s loudspeakers. This is because both your left and right ear can hear the sound coming from your loudspeaker, making it impossible to distinguish between certain sounds.
When you listen to these recordings via headphones, however, you might be surprised to find out the sound from the left earpiece is audible only to the left ear, and the sound from the right earpiece is audible only to the right ear.
This creates an almost hypnotic effect that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
For example, certain sounds, such as a person whispering, or natural sounds, like rain or ocean waves, will seemingly move back and forth between your ears to create a sort of pendulum effect. This may cause you to fall asleep faster.
It’s always a good idea to choose an audio clip or video that runs for a little over an hour, just to ensure you can fall asleep to the recordings.
Does ASMR Work For Everyone?
Unfortunately, ASMR does not work for everyone. Typically, most people who experience ASMR for the first time do so by accident. It is more common for children to discover this response, although it does happen in adults occasionally.
It can be difficult to imagine how such a tingling sensation would feel if you’ve never experienced it before. It may even feel like the rest of the internet is simply making it all up.
However, just because you haven’t found your unique trigger yet doesn’t mean you should give up! If you really want to experience an ASMR sensation, then keep experimenting with different sensory triggers until you find one that helps you!
How to Practice ASMR
First, you should determine what your ASMR triggers are. You may not get anything out of the soft whispering videos available on YouTube – nor from any audio stimulus, really. That’s okay!
Remember that you can trigger an ASMR response using any of your five senses and that all triggers lie on your own personal spectrum.
Once you know what your triggers are, find out ways you can recreate that soothing ASMR sensation.
Here’s a video that shows another example of ASMR relaxation.
ASMR is still a relatively new trend, but its popularity has steadily risen to staggering heights. Even celebrities like Jake Gyllenhaal and Salma Hayek have become swept up in the craze, or rather, the sweeping calm that has taken hold of the internet.
With enough experimentation to find what ASMR triggers work for you, you too will be able to rest easy and sleep better throughout the night!
What are your favorite ASMR sounds?