Insomniacs & Trauma Victims Find Rest Through ASMR

Updated on December 11, 2016
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How I Found ASMR

Being able to fall asleep easily and naturally is a gift that I was not fortunate enough to receive. Often, there are many hours between the time I go to bed and when I actually fall asleep.

Eventually, I got fed up with wasting my days trying to catch up on lost sleep, so I decided to seek out a more natural sleep aid than over-the-counter medications. I started my search on YouTube.

Initially, I listened to long videos of nothing but rain sounds—because that had traditionally been the only thing that could relax me into blissful unconsciousness.

But then new types of videos started appearing in my “recommended” list. Videos with titles like “Makeup Artist Roleplay,” or “Crinkly Sounds ASMR.” I remember asking myself why people would watch others play make-believe for 30 minutes to an hour or more? Why would anyone listen to a long-winded video of someone crumpling paper?

The first ASMR video I ever watched was of VisualSounds1 sharing her extensive make-up collection with the video’s now 87,000 viewers. After watching that video, I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time.

For me, the soft cadence of a lazily-spoken ramble in an ASMR video is like a soothing, auditory muscle relaxant to my entire body. Other times, I like to listen to the sticky sounds of tape, the crinkly sounds of bubblewrap, or the scratchy sound of hair-brushing for the same effect. It took me awhile to learn my triggers, but 3 years in the ASMR community has helped me identify which videos are most relaxing to me so that I can create a playlist of pure bliss.

What Is ASMR?

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it refers to the tingly sensation across the scalp and down the back of the neck that one experiences when listening to certain auditory stimuli. The phenomenon has gained significant exposure over recent years, with several of YouTube’s biggest ASMRtists interviewing with news agencies such as ABC World News.

ASMR Research

Only recently has serious research begun on the brain’s response to the calming, cathartic response to certain stimuli. In 2015, psychologists at Swansea University in England published a scientific paper on PeerJ, stating that ASMR was a type of flow-state and comparing it to synesthesia, a neurological condition in which one type of sensory simulation affects an unrelated sense—for example, an individual may link certain sounds with certain colors.

ASMR for PTSD and Insomnia

But ASMR appears to treat other ailments as well, such as PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dolly ASMR, who says that before discovering ASMR she “suffered from PTSD for nearly three years," created her channel specifically to help others with their symptoms. You won’t have to scroll too far through popular videos to see the number of viewers willing to share their personal stories about how ASMR and its community saved them, from sleeplessness and from themselves.

Unfortunately, due to the somewhat intimate nature of ASMR, it’s inevitable that it would draw a band of trolls who intend to pervert it’s original purpose, though according to some studies, a small percentage of people legitimately become sexually aroused via these types of videos.

ASMR has a large and ever-growing community filled with genuine people brought together by their common interests and desire to give back to society. And what better gift than a peaceful night of rest?

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