ASMR Defined – Sounds, Whispers and Triggers for Sleep Update 01/2022

A tingling feeling that originates in the head or neck and proceeds down the spine is known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). Feeling peaceful and relaxed is one of the many benefits of meditative practices. The term “ASMR” is all over the internet right now, especially on YouTube.

It’s possible that you’ve experienced this sensation while receiving a massage, having your hair brushed, or hearing certain (often monotonous) sounds.

Even though ASMR is quite prevalent, you’re not the only one who hasn’t felt this nearly ecstatic sensation. It’s not a universal phenomenon.

A study found that 813 out of 1,002 participants (81 percent) reported experiencing ASMR, according to the findings.

How does ASMR feel?

ASMR is difficult to describe to someone who has never had the pleasure of experiencing it. Tingling in your head, spine, and other parts of your body are all frequent ways to describe the sensation.

It soothes anxiousness in some people. Some people become drowsy as a result. Some people have reported that it has helped them feel better briefly.

The “nearly ecstatic” experience is described by some.

What triggers ASMR?

ASMR can be elicited by visuals as well as sounds, depending on the individual.

Depending on the individual, the sounds that elicit an ASMR response can be anything. The majority of the time, they are dreary, monotonous, and recurrent sounds. Whispering, typing on a computer, a blow dryer, tapping, buzzing, or even rain are examples of possible sources of noise.

Another typical trigger appears to be receiving one’s own individual attention. If you’ve ever felt a tingling sensation while someone was brushing your hair, you’ve likely experienced this experience.

Getting your nails done, receiving a haircut, getting a massage, or having someone stroke your arm may also induce this sensation. It’s possible that anything could elicit this type of response from someone.

How does ASMR work?

ASMR has been present for a long time, but it has only lately been given a name and explored in depth. The majority of what is known about it comes directly from those who have first-hand experience with it.

There are, however, a few theories about how ASMR affects the body.

Relaxation, comfort, and a desire to sleep may be caused by the release of hormones in your brain when you become aware of your “trigger.”

Endorphins

The brain and nervous system secrete chemicals known as endorphins. Chemicals like these have been shown to alleviate symptoms of stress and pain. It’s possible that they’re responsible for the “euphoric” feeling some people get from ASMR.

Oxytocin

You may hear the term “love hormone” applied to oxytocin, which is secreted when people connect, such as when they hug each other. It’s the hormone’s secretion that promotes positive emotions like love, connection, and well-being. The “tingly” sensation associated with ASMR may be a result of this.

Serotonin

Stress reduction, relaxation, and sleep induction are all aided by the release of serotonin.

Dopamine

Involved in motivation, reward, memory, and attention is the neurotransmitter dopamine. It has also been known to lead to substance abuse. This may hold true for ASMR as well, since you may find yourself craving more and more of the sensation.

As previously said, these are only speculations about how ASMR affects the brain’s physiological processes.

Research into ASMR is just getting started, as it is a relatively new phenomenon.

One study examined if exposure to ASMR films alters one’s physiology in any way. In order to conduct the study, the researchers divided the participants into two groups: those who experienced ASMR and those who did not.

A decrease in heart rate and an increase in skin electrical conductivity were observed in the ASMR group during the research.

No significant changes in excitement, stress, or sexual arousal were noted by ASMR subjects after viewing the videos.

Why does ASMR happen?

In my opinion, ASMR has been around for a very, very long time. Only recently have researchers recognized and examined this phenomenon. Researchers at Swansea University in the United Kingdom completed the first peer-reviewed scientific study on ASMR in 2015. ASMR content is incredibly popular online, which has sparked a surge of scientific research in response to the expanding consumer demand.

ASMR is a subjective phenomenon, and there is no scientific evidence to support its widespread use in society. Most persons who report experiencing ASMR describe having their first experience with it as a child, according to a 2015 study. This study and others like it are helping us to discover some of the symptoms and characteristics of the disorder, as well as other qualities that are common among those who have it.

ASMR may be similar to “flow.”

Flow is a well-recognized mental and emotional state characterized by both a deep sense of relaxation and intense concentration. When we’re in a state of flow, we’re able to focus and perform at our peak mental and physical abilities. When we’re completely absorbed in what we’re doing, we lose track of time. ASMR and flow share many of the same characteristics, including deep relaxation and a sensation of well-being.

What’s the primary distinction between ASMR and flow? We’re in a state of flow when we’re immersed in a task, whether it’s playing music, solving a math problem, or swinging a golf club. There is no such task participation in ASMR. As a result, there appears to be nothing more than passive relaxation.

Is ASMR connected to misophonia?

Misophonia might be thought of as the antithesis of ASMR’s joyful, calming effects. Individuals with misophonia are acutely aware of even the slightest sound. Exposure to these noises can elicit strong emotions such as rage, uneasiness, irritation, and disgust in people who suffer from misophonia. Misophonia can be triggered by a variety of sounds, although chewing and breathing are two of the most common.

A recent large-scale investigation of misophonia indicated that around half of the individuals exhibited ASMR. Both disorders, which combine sensory sensitivity with emotional response, may exist on the same continuum. Sleeping may be difficult for people with misophonia who are particularly sensitive to sounds like yawning, heavy breathing, and even snoring.

Another disease that has some similarities to ASMR is synesthesia. When one sense is stimulated, the other sense is automatically stimulated. Other examples include seeing colors when listening to music, or hearing noises when smelling certain things. Nearly 6% of persons with ASMR also have synesthesia, according to recent studies.

Is ASMR related to mindfulness?

It’s possible to mix mindfulness with ASMR-like attentiveness to the senses and feelings. An attentive state allows us to be more conscious of our thoughts and feelings, as well as more aware of our senses. When we’re mindful, we accept and don’t judge the sensations and emotions we’re aware of. Many persons with ASMR report experiencing similar states of deep relaxation and contentment as a result of practicing mindfulness.

ASMR and mindfulness may be linked, according to a recent study. Researchers discovered that those who reported having an ASMR experience showed higher levels of awareness than those who reported not having an ASMR experience.

Stress reduction, improved sleep quality, and shorter time to fall asleep are all benefits of mindfulness. I’ve previously written on the benefits of mindful practices for improving sleep.

Are some personalities more prone to ASMR?

According to a 2017 study, so. Nearly 300 persons with and without ASMR were studied for their personality features by the researchers. In their research, they discovered that those who experienced ASMR had higher levels of curiosity and daydreaming than the general population, as well as a more creative attitude on life. Self-consciousness, worry, and depression were all more common in people with ASMR.

There are numerous ways in which one’s personality has an impact on one’s ability to sleep. We’ve learned a lot about our own chronotypes. If you’re a Lion (morning type), you’re less prone to suffer from insomnia than Wolves (evening type), who tend to be the most restless and irritable at night. Trying to figure out if you’re a chronotype or not? (If you’re interested, you can take my quiz right here.)

Brain differences related to ASMR

As we learn more about how ASMR affects the brain, it will be a long time before we have all the answers. Researchers believe that people with ASMR have structural and functional distinctions from the rest of us. If you’ve ever experienced ASMR, you’re more likely to have a “networked” mind, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2017. At the same time, persons with ASMR had less of a “network” in certain parts of their brains than those without it.

In light of these findings, experts believe that ASMR may be at least in part caused by brain networks mixing together, resulting in multiple sensory and emotional experiences.

Potential benefits of ASMR for sleep

It’s only recently that scientists have begun to investigate the potential benefits of ASMR in the treatment of sleep disorders. There isn’t enough evidence to say whether or not ASMR can help people with sleep disorders like insomnia.

We do know, however, that many people who use ASMR do so in order to aid with sleep. Most ASMR users utilize the experience to help them fall asleep, according to a study published in 2015. In this study, 81 percent of participants reported using ASMR before bed, which is the most prevalent time for ASMR use.

How might ASMR work to enhance sleep?

Although we can’t be sure, recent research and reports from real-world users point to various possibilities:

Reducing stress

People who utilize ASMR say that their ASMR experiences make them feel more relaxed and less anxious.

In 2018, a study found that watching ASMR videos reduced both psychological and physiological stress in those with ASMR. ASMR consumers reported a decrease in emotional stress and an increase in relaxation, as well as a decrease in their heart rate. People without ASMR in this study watched the same videos as those who did, but they did not experience the same stress-relieving effects as those who did. In this study, ASMR’s physiological impacts were measured for the first time.

Interestingly, the data showed that emotions of tranquility often accompanied feelings of excitement, and reduced heart rates often accompanied other signals of physiological, non-sexual arousal. It’s clear from these results that ASMR can elicit a wide range of physical and emotional responses. One of the most prevalent hurdles to getting a good night’s sleep is tension, and ASMR’s stress-relieving effects may be one of the reasons why so many people utilize it.

Improving mood

ASMR has a profoundly uplifting effect on the mood of many people, according to those who have experienced it. A brief improvement in mood and alleviation from depression symptoms, such as melancholy, are been documented in studies.

According to a 2015 study, 80 percent of individuals with ASMR reported that watching ASMR films improved their mood, while more recent research from 2018 found that watching ASMR videos reduced people’s feelings of despair.

Anxiety and depression, both of which are mood disorders, have a profound impact on sleep. Getting enough sleep has a direct impact on how anxious or depressed you feel. Another way that ASMR may help you sleep better is by calming you down while also relieving your melancholy or other depressive or anxious sensations.

Relief from pain

Some persons with ASMR may be able to alleviate their chronic discomfort through ASMR, according to preliminary scientific findings. In one study, half of the participants who experienced both ASMR and chronic pain reported transitory improvements in their pain symptoms after utilizing ASMR. Read my previous article on sleep disruption caused by chronic physical pain to learn more about the connection between chronic physical pain and poor sleep quality.

How to use ASMR

ASMR can be experienced in a variety of ways. ASMR videos and audio can be found all over the internet, and the National Sleep Foundation recommends ASMRUniversity and ASMRLabas as good places to start your search.

As a result of its connection to mindfulness, you can also work on your own to build this kind of soothing and sleep-friendly sensory and emotional experience.

In a similar way, meditation can lead you to a state of relaxation and sensory awareness, with a feeling of emotional well-being. Also, visualization exercises such as imagining yourself in a grassy field on a warm day, brushing your skin, and rolling past your ears with a continuous breeze, can have these benefits.

It’s also possible to fall asleep to recordings of nature noises like rain and wind, which can help you relax and calm yourself into a serene physical and emotional state.

Remember, not all of us are likely capable of having an ASMR experience.

Even if you don’t get the ASMR effect, you can still have a good night’s sleep and improve your overall health and well-being by meditating, visualizing, or using sound therapy.

Have you had an ASMR experience in your life?

If yes, do you use these experiences to help you relax and improve your nighttime sleep? A better understanding of why ASMR has become so popular as a sleep aid is something I hope we’ll learn more about shortly.

Can ASMR Help You Sleep?

ASMR for sleep and sleep problems has received limited research. ASMR, on the other hand, has been shown to help certain people sleep better based on anecdotal data and existing studies.

Our understanding of ASMR’s mechanism of action supports suggestions that it can help people sleep better. Dopamine and oxytocin, for example, have been shown to be relaxing and sleep-inducing chemicals that are activated in the brain by ASMR.

Among those who utilize ASMR videos or audio snippets, 82% use ASMR to help them sleep. Aside from overall relaxation, this is the second most prevalent reason people utilize ASMR material. One study found that 81% of participants liked to listen or view ASMR media immediately before going to bed. Bedtime is also the most popular time to use ASMR media. Pre-midday ASMR media consumption was only 6 percent.

Binaural beats are an audio stimulation that is theorized to alter brainwave patterns when used in conjunction with ASMR triggers. Despite the fact that this combination proved to be successful, no such trials have been done with ASMR alone.

Does ASMR Have Other Benefits?

Like its usage as a sleep aid, ASMR has received less attention from researchers. Researchers, on the other hand, are interested in its potential to treat those suffering from sadness or anxiety. More than 80% of those who use ASMR media say it improves their mood and has an effect that lasts for several hours after they stop using it. ASMR media may be useful in treating mental health disorders if anecdotal evidence shows that it offers reliable emotional and physiological advantages. However, additional investigation is required before definitive findings can be drawn.

People who use ASMR media say that it helps them manage chronic pain, just as it does with their sleep and mood. Despite the fact that just 41% of ASMR media users with chronic pain reported pain reduction, those who did reported benefits lasting up to three hours following the event.

Researchers are especially interested in ASMR’s connection to mindfulness, which is the ability to focus on the here and now without judgment or distraction. Because of its positive effects on stress, sleep, and chronic pain management, mindfulness and mindfulness meditation have become increasingly popular in recent years. It’s possible that those who experience ASMR are more thoughtful than those who don’t, increasing the notion that ASMR is linked to mindfulness.

How to Use ASMR for Sleep

When it comes to ASMR, no two people are alike. For example, one person’s reaction to a certain video or song may be different from another’s. A wide range of approaches is available to employ ASMR for sleep.

ASMR can’t be felt by everyone, therefore finding out if you do should be your first step if you’re interested in the phenomenon. There are a plethora of ASMR videos to choose from on the internet. Try several films and sound clips to see if ASMR works best for your personal preferences and needs.

ASMR is best used in a quiet, calm environment. Stereo headphones, which produce a richer, fuller sound, are also preferred by the vast majority of listeners. People who use ASMR to fall asleep may wish to invest in a pair of sleep headphones that sit flat against the head because standard headphones can be difficult to wear while sleeping.

Using ASMR alone is unlikely to be as helpful as using ASMR in conjunction with proper sleep hygiene. ASMR media is popular on smartphones, but the blue light emitted might disrupt sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep. ASMR can also be used in conjunction with other methods of relaxing and winding down before going to bed, such as pre-sleep activities.

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