The Ultimate Guide to ASMR: Conquer Stress, Anxiety & Insomnia

ASMR for sleep, stress, anxiety, relaxation

What do you find particularly relaxing? Good music and wine, for sure. Meditation, if you are so inclined. 

Definitely don’t want to forget your daily dose of ASMR.

ASM – what? (an illustrative story)

One of my first jobs as a teenager, I’m ashamed to say, was as a telemarketer (we were reviled back in the 80s, but nearly as much as these days). About six or so of us sat in school desks in our manager’s spare bedroom, our individual touchtone phones at the ready. She sat at a desk facing us, but beyond that I could not tell you anything.

I don’t recall the name of the company, the name of the manager, the work location… nothing has stuck with me more than 30 years hence.

However, as plain as if it were yesterday, I vividly recall our manager sitting at her desk one sunny afternoon, stuffing envelopes for what seemed like an eternity. I remember wishing it were me stuffing the envelopes and not dealing telephonically with mean people.

What still sticks in my memory even more is a tingly sensation of utter calm that washed over me.

As I sat there enjoying this unusual feeling, I wondered why the simple action of stuffing one envelope after another made me feel so relaxed. In retrospect, it is hard to imagine an activity more boring. I was simply transfixed, though. The envelope stuffing both looked, and sounded, incredibly tranquil.

Nowadays, this soothing, dynamic sensation is called "ASMR."

Tranquility for the 21st century

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, known as ASMR, was only coined in this millennium, but its effect transcends time. As first described by Emma L. Barratt and Nick J. Davis, “individuals experience a tingling, static-like sensation across the scalp, back of the neck and at times further areas in response to specific triggering audio and visual stimuli (2015).” This effect, they noted, leads to a tremendous sense of calm and serenity.

There are several ways to trigger the ASMR sensation. Most ASMR practices involve whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds and slow movements. I don’t recall my manager’s envelope stuffing being particularly slow, but it was repetitive, of course, and the nonstop shuffling of the papers hypnotized me aurally somehow.

As ASMR grows in popularity, adherents claim its benefits extend beyond those of inducing calm. Its fanatics watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts and download apps created by earnest, and, frankly, often quite attractive men and women.

These ASMR stars are dedicated to helping viewers not only relieve stress, but also induce sleep and alleviate depression and anxiety. Perhaps not surprisingly, well crafted ASMR has been suggested to trigger a sort of a "brain orgasm" (Del Campo and Kehle, 2016). No need to buy these ephemeral Internet friends of yours dinner, even.

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What the Science Says

Del Campo and Kehle determined that ASMR has proven to be “therapeutically helpful in promoting subjective well-being or happiness, which can be considered synonymous with mental health.” Up to 80% of individuals who watch ASMR- related videos report decreases in stress and insomnia, according to Barratt and Davis.

Being a newly described phenomenon – we used to call it a “frisson,” as if to say, “I felt a frisson of joy up my neck when I heard Beethoven on CD for the first time” – ASMR is undergoing additional research even as this article is written.

Until its benefits are further proven, it's great to have fun with the ASMR phenomenon. Use it to your advantage, either to help you relieve stress and insomnia, or simply for a hearty laugh.

Whatever your thoughts on ASMR so far, I would advise you, dear reader, to set aside an hour or so and play an ASMR video online to see whether you derive any benefit from it.

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Take ASMR for a Spin! 

I tried it the other night. For me, the monotonous, low key drone of the practitioner combined with the sounds of paper riffling and plastic crunching was unsettling somehow - anything but comforting. I will be trying again, though, especially if I can find anyone in the YouTubes doing any envelope stuffing! In the meantime, I share some varied ASMR videos below that you may like. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Bibliography

Barratt EL, Davis NJ. 2015. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. PeerJ 3:e851 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.851

Del Campo, M. A., & Kehle, T. J. (2016). Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) and frisson: Mindfully induced sensory phenomena that promote happiness. International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, 4(2), 99-105.


Fantastic and Fun ASMR YouTube Videos

The Sleep Maestra

Gibi ASMR is an appealing young practitioner who has over 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube. Set mostly against the backdrop of what is presumably her bed, she knows how to work a microphone with her hypnotic voice and tingle-inducing props. This 36 minute video offers plenty of time to drift off to sleep or at least slough off those after hours blues.

ASMR With Your Mouth Open

Do you find mouth sounds appealing? Half a million YouTube watchers apparently do, as Diddly ASMR shares her vocal talents with them in this misophonia-inducing video.

She ASMRs from a Land Down Under

WhispersRed ASMR wins my nomination as the best mom-substitute on the Internets. Emma's soothing Aussie accent lends an international flair to her soothing, sleep-inducing triggers. You can't help but feel as comforted and loved like you were as a toddler, when mom brought you cookies and warm milk to enjoy at bedtime.

Lipstick and Lotion and Oils, Oh My!

Chynaunique ASMR pulls out all the everyday household item stops to get you to slumber. In this video, she takes advantage of everything she's got, including her magnificent braids, pretty brown eyes and long fingernails. Over six million viewers agree!

The Eyes Have It

When trigger stimulation needs to be heightened beyond merely sound, video ASMR gallops to the rescue. Peace and Saraity ASMR offers 39 minutes of video triggers for, she claims, the best sleep of your life.

"How Are You Today? You're Just Fine!"

Dr Gray is a real psychologist who role plays a soft spoken ASMR therapy visit with her viewers. Her first online "session" isn't even nine minutes long, and it's kind of weird how she knows the answers to her questions to you beforehand, but then, this is the Internet, and you're getting exactly what you pay for.

Buen Provecho, Mi Amor (Bon Appetit, My Love)

ASMR dovetails perfectly with those dream scenario fantasies we all try to conjure up as we attempt to sleep, and leave it to would be TigerBeat model Dennis ASMR to take his visitors on a sleep-inducing date to his favorite Mexican restaurant. I only hope he shares his steak fajitas with me!

Headphones PERFECT for ASMR

Sleep comfortably in these 5-star headphones! They're washable, and with a ten hour play time between charging, you'll be in ASMR heaven:

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  • 3 in 1: Sleep Headphones & Sleep Mask & Sports Headband - EverPlus headband is so multi-functional that you can use it as sleep headphones, sleep mask and sports headband. EverPlus sleep Headphones feature a headband design with wireless speakers inside,...
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ASMR for the Road (Audiobooks)

Emma WhispersRed, to whom you were introduced earlier, produces a series of audiobooks about ASMR. Most ASMR should be viewed in bed in preparation for sleep; this title, however, is perfect for the commute to work!

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ASMR for Your Commute: Quiet Your Mind in a Busy World
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Emma WhispersRed (Author) - Emma WhispersRed (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 11/12/2019 (Publication Date) - HarperAudio (Publisher)

Gifts for the ASMR Lover

All About ASMR to help conquer stress anxiety and insomnia

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Last update on 2020-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

35 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to ASMR: Conquer Stress, Anxiety & Insomnia”

  1. I’ve always seen ASMR videos and playlists pop up on my feed. I knew they had something to do with some calming or repetitive music and what not but didn’t know what it actually stood for until now! Thanks for sharing this article!

  2. I will try this! I’m always curious about different ways to find that inner calm. I have those sleep headphones and like that I can sleep on my side with them on. Thank you for sharing this information!

    1. I’ve heard of asmr before, but mostly just people eating or talking too close into their mics on video games. I had no idea there was another side to it that has health benefits!

  3. I’ve been watching /listening to ASMR videos on YouTube for years. It gives you a sense of euphoria while creating a sense of calm and relaxation at the same time. Great article though because so many people are still unaware of this.

  4. I love this. I write a lot about mindfulness. And practice meditation daily. I’ve been treated for anxiety, depression and PTSD with treatments such as EMDR. But I’ve never tried ASMR before. The way some of the sounds go from side to side remind me of bilateral music though, which I listen to often–especially when feeling anxious. Thanks for these great video examples!

  5. I have spent time stuffing envelopes – LOL! If it weren’t for the paper cuts, I would call it relaxing.

  6. This is fascinating! My daughter engages in some of these activities without knowing that it’s providing a type of therapy for her. Very cool!

  7. This is so interesting! I’ve experienced ASMR without knowing it had a name. As a child watching my mother iron clothes produced that effect. I’ll check out the videos.

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