Today’s post is a guest post from Kim Claussen. With a lot of students coming up on midterms and the extra stress of the holidays, this post might be super helpful.
ASMR & How It Helped Me Beat Insomnia
Since I was little, I’ve had trouble falling asleep quickly. What other people managed in minutes took me at least an hour or two. A few years ago, I was unexpectedly laid off which led to personal issues, including insomnia. It got to the point where I was actively staying up until the sun came up (summer and winter), crashing for maybe a couple hours, then pushing on into the day, only to repeat the process come evening. This went on for months and months. I tried all kinds of things and after a lot of prayer, I ended up stumbling across ASMR videos on Youtube.
The first one I saw was strange to me: a girl sat on her bed, staring into the camera, tapping her nails gently on ceramic pots and random objects. This was entertainment? People watched this? Why?
But I was curious, especially when I saw some people on Twitter posting favourite ASMR videos and mentioning the content helped them de-stress and sleep.
I was ready to try anything that would help me sleep, so I checked out more videos.
The more I watched, the more I learned, and the more I found creators and videos that soothed me.
Most importantly, I found videos that put me to sleep in less than half an hour. Sleep. In less than 10 minutes. And not only did these videos significantly help me crush my insomnia (it only crops up once in a blue moon now instead of every night), but I can’t even tell you how actually revolutionary it is for me to be able to fall asleep that fast, and I owe it to ASMR videos. I put them on every night now to ease me to sleep.
So what is ASMR, exactly?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It usually is felt as a sort of pleasant tingling sensation at the back of your neck or crown of your head. The tingling sensation is pleasant, and it can be calming, relaxing, and make you feel sleepy. Some people experience it with certain sounds or voices, strongly or gently, and some people don’t get the sensation at all. Though the actual science of the sensation hasn’t been researched a ton, it’s getting looked into more and more.
Here’s a great little video that explains ASMR well:
ASMR videos have been growing steadily in popularity over the past several years and, more recently, have gained some media attention. The coverage is usually slanted to the mocking and negative side, as the particularly bizarre videos are trotted out.
Despite this, ASMR remains popular and, if anything, continues to grow in popularity as more people discover it. There are ASMR experiences and ASMR massages popping up, and it been a part of festivals, like the Mind Body Spirit festival in the UK. A (heavily scripted) hour and twenty minute “movie”/experience was released in June 2019, starring several prominent ASMRtists and Reese candy. W Magazine has an ever expanding playlist on Youtube dedicated to “ASMR Interviews” where celebs try out ASMR while talking about their career and life.
What are the videos like?
Whatever sound or voice causes that tingly sensation at the back of your neck is called a “trigger” and it can be anything—and I mean, anything. From rain sounds to hair brushing to squishing slime (yes, really), from quietly reading to tapping on objects to a pretend visit to the library, hotel check-in desk, or doctor’s office. These type of “virtual visits” are called “role plays” and also can range from everyday things to the world of fictional characters and everything in between. There’s gaming, mundane chores, gift wrapping, cooking, tutorials, purring kitties, eating, painting… If you can think of a sound or experience, there’s probably a video for it.
The intent of the vast majority of these videos, no matter how utterly bizarre, is to help the viewer on the other end relax and to spark the tingling sensation. Maybe you just need to de-stress at the end of a busy day, maybe you need help coping with anxiety or depression or other mental health issues. Maybe you need to fall asleep or maybe you need to take your mind off things. The vast majority of these videos are not supposed to be irritating, sexual, or creepy—not all triggers are for everyone. A quick glance at the comments section of many ASMR videos shows a wide range of people who find relief from mental health symptoms through the relaxation ASMR brings.
Okay, so who makes these videos?
The creators of these videos are nicknamed “ASMRtists” and just like the triggers they offer up, the range of creators is huge. There are men and women of various age ranges and ethnicities all over the globe offering up videos for your relaxation and entertainment.
And if you feel weirded out by watching someone slowly moving their hands across the screen, there are plenty of soft, ambience videos out there, too (like campfires, coffee shop, and even Hogwarts). These are great for studying or reading and offer a gentle, white noise effect.
These ASMRtists are an incredibly talented, creative bunch as they work out amazing makeup, backdrops, stories, and more for their videos. They play with lowkey videos, lowfi (videos without fancy microphones), high production masterpieces, and more.
How do I know if I have tingles or triggers that I like/dislike?
The simplest way to find out is to watch ASMR videos! For me, I started first with videos I thought might give me that “tingly” feeling. I get it in the back of my neck when a friend plays with my hair, so I found videos where people do virtual haircuts or hair brushing—those sounds were very relaxing to me. This branched into finding more videos featuring other sounds I found relaxing (or not), and plenty of videos that were just entertaining and enjoyable, even if they didn’t give me the tingles.
A good place to start if you’re not sure what you might like is a “trigger test” video. These are usually a compilation of an ASMRtist going through a wide variety of triggers so you can get an idea of things that sound relaxing to you. Some of them will absolutely not be your thing, and that’s totally okay, because like I said, the range is endless—everyone finds different sounds relaxing just as everyone finds different smells delicious.
Cool, but now what?
There is so, so much out there, and it can definitely be hard to know where to start if just you’re curious or wanting to find something to help you de-stress. I have roughly eighty-bajillion videos saved and channels I follow, so I have plenty to recommend. Definitely explore on your own and find out which ones are soothing, tingly, sleepy, and nice-sounding (or visually calming) to you, though—the videos that are my favs might not work for you, or maybe you’ll love them, too!
If you’ve never heard of ASMR, or if you’ve only seen videos that were too weird for you, now might be the time to explore it a little more and see if there’s something out there for you. And if you suffer from insomnia or anxiety, it’s well worth your time to find something to calm your mind and help you sleep.
About the Guest Author
Kim spends her time writing things, designing things, and watching a ton of television. She calls Alberta, Canada home and can be found drinking tea, crying over fictional characters, and fighting her way through art school.