What Is “ASMR” –and How Can It Help You Sleep?

Many of us have a common issue when the night rolls around — we can’t fall asleep. This lack of shut-eye may range from just a few nights of restlessness,  restless leg syndrome, an inability to stop doom-scrolling your social feed — to full-blown insomnia. Granted, we’ve probably encountered the same old tips time and time again for catching up on our Zzzzs: avoid caffeine before bed, turn off your screens, try a sleep aid medication, and the most cliche of all — just count sheep. New research shows that your insomnia solution might actually be hiding on YouTube under the guise of a trend known as “ASMR.”


What Is ASMR?

ASMR, formally known as “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response,” is a relaxing condition or involuntary euphoric sensation experienced by some in response to specific triggers, such as whispering or tapping sounds. Those that experience ASMR tend to describe the feeling as brain tingles or brain orgasms– a warm tingling that usually starts at the crown of the head and slowly makes its way down the body.

The phenomenon just acquired its semi-clinical name during this decade, so researchers are still probing whether it has a truly scientific basis or not. However, recent studies have shown that ASMR has the ability to alter physiological responses, such as lowering heart rate. ASMR fans also report less emotional stress and increased calmness. There is plenty of potential for ASMR’s therapeutic benefits on both better sleep and even mood disorders.

For many, ASMR has become an integral part of their nightly routine, praised as a natural sleep aid and for anxiety relief. The data doesn’t lie either: this eclectic technique has found a huge influx of support from content creators and watchers alike in recent years. One quick YouTube search will open up a sedative-laden rabbit-hole of videos ranging from towel-folding tutorials to simulations of haircuts and massages, careful dissections of fruit, soap carving, soft-spoken book readings, and even the satisfying pop of bubble wrap.

Types of Common ASMR Triggers


Hair Brushing

Tapping on a book or table

Spraying a spray bottle

Folding clothes


Typing on a keyboard


Eating sounds

How Do I Try ASMR?

As incredible as this new movement may sound, not everyone experiences its “brain massaging” effects equally. ASMR is a physical and emotional response of deep comfort. Triggers are extremely nuanced; what is relaxing for some may be annoying for others. Sometimes the mood must be set for “optimal coziness” before the brain will allow itself to truly unwind. Take some time on YouTube to discover what sounds and visuals are the most satisfying for you. Let your mind get lost in the mundane repetition…

Bob Ross, otherwise known as The Godfather of ASMR for his signature soft-spoken voice and soothing brushstrokes, is a great place to start!

-Amelia McDonald


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