5 min read
written by Liz Tabron
We all want a good night’s sleep and there are many aids to help us disconnect from the world and drift off into an undisturbed night. Over the past few years, a new relaxation trend has dominated social media. From YouTube to TikTok, ASMR audio and video is everywhere. You can find videos of creators whispering into microphones, carving bars of soap, and even chewing their food. But what is ASMR, and does it really help you sleep?
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. The name is believed to originate from a 2010 Facebook post. ASMR didn’t have its first peer-reviewed study until 2015 and there is still a lot to learn about it.
ASMR describes a sensation of tingling in response to a specific audio or visual stimuli. How it works isn’t fully understood, but it is theorised to stimulate pleasure points in the brain which is why listeners experience a physical response to the stimuli. In the few studies that have researched ASMR, different participants have had different reactions. Some cannot experience ASMR at all, while others may only benefit from one or two specific stimuli.
ASMR sounds can include crinkling paper, whispering voices, or chewing food. ASMR lovers describe a static or goosebumps sensation which spreads across the skull, down their neck or into their limbs. It triggers feelings of relaxation and calm, which is why some people use it to help them sleep.
There hasn’t been much research into the benefits of ASMR, but some studies suggest it can be a useful relaxation technique which could potentially improve sleep quality. Before adding it to your night-time routine, listen and watch a variety of ASMR content to find the right stimuli for you. A recent study divided the stimuli into four categories: whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds, and slow movements.
It also found that engaging with the same content for a long period of time can lessen the impact, so be mindful of how long you listen to ASMR sounds. Or create a playlist of mixed ASMR sounds which alternate as you sleep.
ASMR triggers vary depending on the person, which makes it impossible to choose one as the best ASMR stimuli. What could be soothing to one person could be unbearable to another. The best way to find your ASMR sleep trigger is to experiment with different stimuli. These can be accessed online, like videos of light patterns or applying makeup, and audio of tapping or typing sounds, humming, chewing, or scratching. ASMR can also be practiced individually or with a partner through physical stimuli like a massage or hair brushing.
The first peer-reviewed study of ASMR came out in 2015, and it found that people had a reduced heart rate while watching ASMR videos. This made it as effective as other relaxation methods, like deep breathing exercises. Since then, more research has been done into whether ASMR could have therapeutic potential as a tool to help people with insomnia, depression or anxiety. While this is still uncertain, the promise of ASMR is exciting.
As with other relaxation methods, such as meditation, yoga or aromatherapy, there is a chance it might not be for you. You can only discover the benefits of ASMR by trying it. Luckily there’s plenty of content to try, with ASMR creators and influencers continuing to thrive on social channels such as TikTok and YouTube.
There’s no conclusive evidence if ASMR is good for you or bad for you, but plenty of people listen to music to help them sleep and ASMR tracks are no different. Invest in a bedside speaker or sleep headphones to avoid any discomfort then start the track of your choice. Try combining ASMR with other sleep relaxation techniques like weighted blankets until you find the perfect nighttime routine for you.
Watching ASMR videos every night, however, might be less conducive to sleep. Blue light from our phone screens has been shown to disturb our circadian rhythm which makes it both harder to fall asleep and then to fall into a deep sleep. If your ASMR trigger requires a visual stimulus, it might be better to use these videos as a relaxation technique an hour or two before you plan to sleep rather than watching them in bed.
Inspired to improve the quality of your sleep? Find your perfect bedtime routine with Silentnight’s 10 tips for a better night's sleep.