Hearing a bedtime story may still lull you to sleep, but it might help more if the reader whispers it. Or if they gently tap their foot, or just shuffle papers around for a few minutes. Confused? There's a growing subculture of insomnia- and anxiety-plagued people who find solace in these kinds of repetitive sounds, a relaxation phenomenon known as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). (This magical GIF can also help reduce anxiety, stat.)
In a 2012 blog post, Steven Novella, an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, compared ASMR to migraine headaches — “We know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history,” he wrote — and theorized that ASMR could even be a type of “pleasurable” seizure.
And just last month, Richard and colleagues published data that shows results of fMRI brain imaging scans for 10 individuals (who all previously reported experiencing ASMR) as they watched an ASMR video and reported feeling the sensation. The parts of the brain active when we’re socially engaged with others, when we feel empathy, and when our brain’s reward centers are on, appeared to be active when people said they experienced ASMR.
"Anecdotally, people are also using ASMR videos to help with stress, depression, loneliness, and social anxiety," says Giulia Poerio, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Sheffield in the UK. Poerio recently published a study in PLoS One that found ASMR does, in fact, help people feel calmer, less stressed, and less sad. It even tangibly lowers their heart rates—all suggesting ASMR may have very real, therapeutic value. Meanwhile, previous research in PeerJ reports the sounds can help temporarily alleviate symptoms of depression and chronic pain for those who are tuned into the tingles.
Does it always start in your ears? When I’m sick, sometimes my ASMR starts automatically but I can always control it and stop it later if my muscles are aching badly (like a flu). I shudder sometimes too without even triggering my ASMR. I think the shudder is a warning or something, not sure. It actually makes thunder sounds in your ears? I’m curious now.. I can never get it to make sounds, but I’ve noticed something when I touch dogs or cats sometimes when I do it.. very unique but strange/good reaction from pets.
In 2016 I became a qualified Sound Therapy practitioner through The Collage of Sound Healing in England. Then later a practitioner in Crystal and Himalayan Bowl treatments as well as Assemblage Point adjustment and Reiki. I wanted to understand better the effects of sound on the body and how I was possibly helping my viewers. These courses gave me a much deeper understanding of what I do on YouTube and the experience to go on and take ASMR back into the world where it started for me. I strongly believe the social aspect of nurturing one another should not be lost especially as we grow older. The internet should be a means for further connection, not stop us from experiencing it fully in person. It should be a tool and not a substitute.
Generally speaking, ASMR content creators are essentially self taught YouTubers who have experienced this feeling all of their lives just like the viewers. Those that have been creating content for many years have literally been developing these techniques since they started. Working with the early childhood memories of triggers, adapting these for a video setting, trying out new ideas, developing those seen done by fellow content creators, viewer suggestions and feedback. Personally it’s been an interesting journey with trials, errors and successes to develop the skills I have now and there is still a way to go with more ideas to explore. Not just in video format but live and in person sessions.
Another unanswered question: why do some people experience ASMR while others don't? "The simplest answer is a genetic difference," says Richard. In the same way that some people dislike cilantro or have a high tolerance for alcohol, genetics could affect how sensitive someone is to the neurochemicals produced during ASMR. "The ability to experience ASMR could also be influenced by lifetime experiences, diet, medications, and many other factors," he says. "It's clear that researchers still have a lot to figure out."
Then begins the whispering voice of an English girl named WhisperingLife and with it the very first Whisper video. Since this time the feeling brought on by the whispering has been given its name as ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) and Whisperers have been named ASMRtists. Other terms are Sleep Whisperer, Whisper Therapist or just ASMR Content Creator. By now there are so many more content creators, very likely in the hundreds. There is a style, sound and personality for everyone.
I just discovered I was capable of triggering tingles on purpose this past month, after it popped into my head one day to seek out a video of a cat grooming itself (my trigger) to see if I could purposely trigger that weird relaxing feeling that I had experienced occasionally growing up, but had never really fully thought about. So that was pleasant. Then oddly enough a week ago I attempted to articulate this experience to a friend at a party (not knowing the term ASMR – nor even aware that it was a known thing, I simply described it as this peaceful, totally non-sexual, relaxed feeling I get from watching cats grooming themselves). Against all odds, this friend said, “oh, you’re probably experiencing ASMR – you should look it up.” Needless to say – it’s nice to find that indeed there’s an entire community of people online that have the same capability. Thought I’d share my experience and ask a couple questions.
Richard, who is also the author of Brain Tingles: The Secret to Triggering Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response for Improved Sleep, Stress Relief, and Head-to-Toe Euphoria, estimates around 20 per cent of the population experience strong ASMR. What triggers people may come down to individual preferences. “The key to triggering ASMR is to create gentle sounds,” he says. Richard’s own triggers include eye exams and [the Netflix series] The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.
I say “dis-analogy” because when you think about it, ASMR is nothing like an orgasm, and in fact is closer to the exact opposite of an orgasm on the spectrum of things that feel good. Orgasms are short intense bursts that are characterized by tension, desire, need, etc. ASMR often involves letting go, relaxing and just being at peace. I think ASMR is a more anticipatory sensation, where often times the anticipation is actually better than the thing anticipated. But the anticipation of sex, without actual sex is for most people extremely frustrating.
This image from video provided by Michelob shows a frame from their 2019 Super Bowl commercial for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. The ad features the actress Zoe Kravitz using techniques for autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. It is described as a tingly euphoric response, usually starting on the head and scalp, and sometimes spreading down the neck, arms or back. (Michelob ULTRA via AP)
Pica, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is when an individual craves materials that can’t strictly be considered “food” for a period that’s longer than a month. This could include chalk, but also materials like clay, sand, dirt, glue, paper, and pretty much any other material you can imagine. It’s common in children, but it also occurs in teens and adults with unknown prevalence.
I have been experiencing “ASMR” for as long as I can remember. Of course there are certain natural physical or visual triggers, but for me the trigger is a little more esoteric. It can happen at anytime and I generally connect to cognitive thought. I had no idea it had a name. When i am in meditation and i feel a connection with the divine (higher self, whatever anyone chooses to call it) it comes on as a full body buzz. I generally associate it with being aligned to something and getting a thumbs up, or green light to proceed. The absence of ASMR indicates a thumbs down for me, or a red light. So i guess you could say it is a tool of intuition for me. For example, i will have an ASMR top left quadrant of head, within a moment i will hear from someone i have been thinking about or not thinking about. In the beginning it would present only at the top of my crown, now it can originate at forehead or temporal lobes, base of head, etc. i had no idea it had a name until i stumbled on a you tube video and googled ASMR.bdoes anyone else associate it with something non-linear?
It's also not something that affects everyone. Apparently only part of the population "gets" ASMR, just like not everyone "gets" magic-eye pictures or Beyoncé. It could even be a genetic thing for some, like the people who were born with the crossed wires that make them think cilantro tastes like Comet. The actual science on ASMR is scant, and some neurologists aren't sure that it even exists. Those who do think that the tingling feelings produced by ASMR might be tiny seizures. But for those who do experience ASMR, there's a wealth of material out there to give you a brain boner.
Well finally I got a name for it, I was experiencing it when I was a child, especially strong when some neighborhood girl was doing some girly tests with me with her fingers crossed or something. Totally felt like I was in a trance, and a pleasent feeling on the back of my neck and head. Also a strong one was when I was watching flight attendants show the safety precautions on every plane, weird gestures with their hands showing belt and emergency exists, but only from beautiful women (not men). Also when I watched these flight attendants on youtube, very strong sensation. You should include this type of video. I think it is a rather intimate feeling not meant to be shared with many people (anonymous people on the internet don't count) :D
It seems at the moment that the answer is no. Not everybody reports experiencing this sensation. Most people discover it by accident in their childhood, however some adults experience it for the first time. If you haven’t experienced ASMR before, it might just be that you haven’t found your personal triggers yet. Check out our article detailing the common triggers to see if any of them do it for you.
The type of "bliss" I experience can most easily be experienced at train stations or airports, where lots of people move, though I wasn't open to this before practicing meditation, yoga and seva, so may take time to develop and is not an end goal in itself. End goal should be the journey, to make steps in the directions you truly desire and attract, compromising oneself a bit less.