What Is ASMR and Why Does it Relax You?

ASMR can lower stress, improve mood, and reduce chronic pain. Let's see in detail everything you need to know.
What Is ASMR and Why Does it Relax You?

Written by Daniela Andarcia

Last update: 16 April, 2021

The internet is full of ASMR videos. But unlike other popular content, these ones aim to relax the viewer and, in some cases, help them fall asleep.

To do this, the creators of this content usually use slow and repetitive actions (such as brushing, chewing, whispering, touching different surfaces, or turning the pages of a book) that cause a tingling sensation.

This tingling, often described as pleasant, begins in the head, shoulders, and spine, spreads to other parts of the body, and is responsible for relaxation. Find out what ASMR is, how it works, and its potential health benefits.

What is the ASMR?

ASMR can be experienced in a number of ways.
Fortunately, there is a lot of material on the internet capable of stimulating this feeling.

The term ASRM (or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) refers to a tingling or warm sensation that begins at the crown and nape of the neck, and is caused by certain sounds and images.

Given its popularity, there are many names by which this state of euphoria has been called. Among the most common are “brain orgasm, head tingling, and brain tingling.”

Now, although the origins of ASMR are uncertain, the term is pretty new, having first appeared in a discussion forum in 2010.

Today ASMR has become a phenomenon. There are many creators and content that seek to generate this sensation, through the sounds that are made when eating, cooking, whispering, snapping fingers, or painting nails, to name but a few.

How does it work?

Despite being a known phenomenon, there’s still no scientific explanation for why ASMR can affect some people. What is known is that this sensation occurs after listening to or watching videos that contain “triggers”.

These “triggers” can be isolated actions (whispers, soft touches, delicate hand movements, among others) or activities (cutting hair, preparing a meal, painting a picture, among others).

However, their main characteristic is that they are carried out slowly, calmly and that they generate a certain intimacy.

Although most ASMR videos are 20 to 40 minutes long, they can range from 15 minutes to 4 hours. This is due to the main objective of this phenomenon which is to give you time to relax and, in turn, to help you sleep.

What does science say about ASMR?

The science behind ASMR may not yet be clear, but that isn’t to say that there’s no research on this phenomenon.

The first was a study published in PeerJ that used a small group of people to determine how the most common triggers affected mood.

The research concluded that ASMR was able to temporarily improve mood and that for some it could function as a relaxation method that reduces stress levels.

Other perspectives of the ASMR

A study published in PeerJ examined ASMR as a form of mindfulness. To do so, 284 people performed a series of tests comparing ASMR with mindfulness. Although it was found that there may be a link, it was determined that more research was still needed.

There’s also research on the possible effects of ASMR on the health of the body. A study published in PLoS One found that watching these types of videos can decrease the heart rate and increase the levels of the skin’s galvanic response (GSR), known to be a measure of the variations in the electrical characteristics of the dermis.

Similarly, this research concluded that the sensation caused by ASMR is different from getting a chill, which is why it’s considered a relaxing experience par excellence.

Finally, research published in 2018 showed that other benefits of these videos include:

  • Help you relax, rest, and fall asleep
  • Reduce anxiety and chronic pain
  • Create a sense of protection and care
  • Improve mood when we’re sick or in a bad mood

Can it help you sleep?

ASMR can be beneficial.
This stimulation is very likely to facilitate sleep.

Autonomous Meridian Sensory Response videos are used by many people to beat insomnia, but the question is whether they really work. As we have seen, there’s scientific evidence that this experience helps you to fall asleep and this is due to several factors.

  • First of all, it can relieve pain. It is proven that more than half of the people who suffer from insomnia have to deal with chronic pain, which doesn’t allow the body to relax and, therefore, rest.
  • Secondly, it can improve your mood and sense of well-being. However, it should be noted that only those people capable of experiencing ASMR can feel this change in their emotions.
  • Thirdly, it can reduce stress. Although difficulty sleeping is one of the main symptoms of depression, there is scientific evidence that having high levels of stress can also affect heart rate, relaxation, and sleep patterns.

How do I know if I can experience ASMR?

Not everyone can experience ASMR, but the people who can are often more empathetic. Usually, this sensation is discovered during childhood (before the age of 10), although there are also cases when it wakes up in adulthood.

In case you don’t know whether you are one of the people who can feel this brain tingling, the recommendation is to look for an ASMR video on the internet. There are a large number of content creators, so you’ll be able to test out the different triggers.

It’s advisable to watch these types of videos with headphones and in quiet places that promote relaxation.

A valid alternative for stressful situations

Since the term ASMR is considered quite recent, more research is still needed on it.

However, studies have shown it can bring health benefits such as reducing stress, improving mood, and reducing chronic pain, all linked to relaxation and better quality of sleep.

As only a few can experience ASMR, the recommendation is to search through the most popular videos and find out if the body feels this so-called “brain tingling”.

  • Barratt, E. L., & Davis, N. J. (2015). Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. PeerJ, 3, e851. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.851
  • Fredborg, BK, Clark, JM y Smith, SD (2018). Mindfulness y respuesta de meridianos sensoriales autónomos (ASMR). PeerJ, 6, e5414. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5414
  • Poerio, G. L., Blakey, E., Hostler, T. J., & Veltri, T. (2018). More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PloS one, 13(6), e0196645. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196645
  • Kovacevich, A., & Huron, D. (2018). Two Studies of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): The Relationship between ASMR and Music-Induced Frisson. Empirical musicology review, 13(1-2), 39. https://doi.org/10.18061/emr.v13i1-2.6012
  • Finan, P. H., Goodin, B. R., & Smith, M. T. (2013). The association of sleep and pain: an update and a path forward. The journal of pain, 14(12), 1539–1552. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2013.08.007
  • Kim, E. J., & Dimsdale, J. E. (2007). The effect of psychosocial stress on sleep: a review of polysomnographic evidence. Behavioral sleep medicine, 5(4), 256–278. https://doi.org/10.1080/15402000701557383
  • Janik McErlean, A. B., & Banissy, M. J. (2017). Assessing Individual Variation in Personality and Empathy Traits in Self-Reported Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Multisensory research, 30(6), 601–613. https://doi.org/10.1163/22134808-00002571

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