ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a phenomenon that describes a pleasurable tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. Stimulating videos and activities like fingernail tapping, watching a brush stroke a surface, or sounds like whispering can provoke this sensation.
Dubbed with names like ‘brain tingles’ or ‘brain orgasms’, this ASMR experience is known to help our brain release neurochemicals like endorphins and oxytocin, which induce deep feelings of relaxation. However, according to ASMR University’s website, not everyone can get this brain tingle from virtual ASMR, as some might need to feel the actual touch of another person or hear the whisper in their own ear for their bodies to release endorphins.
ASMR videos have become a huge trend on the internet over the past few years and currently, there are over 15 million such videos published on YouTube, many of which garner millions of views each. These videos feature things from microphone brushing and scalp massaging to whispering, eating, and even playing with slime.
Aside from making you feel good and relaxed, ASMR also has potential mental health benefits, according to various research projects.
A study conducted in 2018 by researchers from the University of Sheffield, England, found that those who experienced this phenomenon had significantly reduced heart rates while watching ASMR videos compared to people who did not. People have also reported that after engaging with ASMR they tend to feel calm, relaxed, positive, and socially connected.
What's interesting is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants were comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness.
A study conducted in 2015 found that 70% of its participants watch ASMR videos in order to cope with their stress levels, while participants at high risk for depression experienced a large improvement in their mood through watching the videos. Another study in 2017 found that 11% of its participants are motivated to watch ASMR videos in order to reduce their anxiety levels.
There is little research on the benefits of ASMR for sleep and sleep-associated disorders. However, existing studies and anecdotal evidence do show that ASMR helps people to have a better sleeping experience, particularly for those who struggle to fall asleep.
A 2015 paper titled “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state”, written by Emma Barratt and Nick Davis of the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, showed that 82% of the participants of the research watched ASMR videos in order to get some help in falling asleep. 41% of participants of another research conducted in 2017 were also watching ASMR videos for the same reason.
Moreover, the majority of the participants of another ongoing project that involves Dr Craig Richard, a professor at Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy and Jennifer Allen – the very person who coined the term ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ – reported that ASMR helps them to fall asleep, and about half of those diagnosed with insomnia reported that ASMR helps them with their condition.
Whether you get that 'brain tingle' from ASMR or not, in a world where everything is fast-paced, loud, and distracting, you can enjoy a little whispering and some quiet time with this hyped up new-age rabbit hole of ASMR videos.
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