When we talk about what is an ASMR video, not many of us understand their purpose or who they are for to use. We, therefore, look at what is ASMR, why the videos are viral and the benefits they do bring to the viewer.
ASMR Videos are among the most popular videos on YouTube. These movies are of great help to those people who have insomnia. On the past, I searched online for such videos to recommend for a friend. I typed the letters “ASMR” in the search tab and pressed search. The search presented me with a variety of videos for me to make a selection. Among the videos, most had a considerable number of viewers. A good example is one that had approximately 15 million views. When I clicked on the first clip of interest, I saw the following as the movie unfolded:
In the clip, a young aged lady sits behind a traditional microphone. She taps the mic at an interval. From this, the microphone gives the sound of the mic-test when you try to see if it’s still working okay. She then picks up a brush, which she uses to brush her hair gently. She seems to utter something as she walks away from the mic, then back. She makes such a movement several times then says;
“Hello. (She starts with a breathy and quiet voice.) Are you prepared to get relaxed and gently get ready for sleep? Having some easy and slow brush noise can help you feel relaxed. And as you get relaxed, I’ll be here to care for you. You have to do nothing apart from listening and relaxing. What I’m going to do is sense your aura which will help me serve you in a better way. My hope is you have a better feeling, which if you do I’ll help you stay comfortable. In life, we are either in pain or pleasure both of which makes a life. Under such situations, you need to be alone. In the meantime, help me get some vital information about your life as we make progress.”
In the whole activity, the lady was brushing her hair. She then began doing some writings using a pencil. She was writing on a paper, close to the mic. And this made sure that the scratching noise caused by the script gets heard clearly. And this was as she went on asking questions and noting down the answers as provided. She continues;
“Are you interested in getting more details regarding ways to relax your body and receiving a better sleep? What is your email address? (When she was asking the questions, she tapped the mike making it give the heart-beating sound through the headphones.) Okay, that’s good. Let’s do the trigger technique. (The lady picks a small purse and slowly starts to scratch on its surface. On sometimes, she opens and closes the zipper several times. She does this as she taps on the surface of the purse.) Good. Let’s now try another trigger. (She picks a piece of a writing pad, and then brings it close to the mic, while she gently rattles the paper.) She then asks, is the noise appealing to your ears? (She then tears it into pieces and reaches for the brush. She holds it close to the microphone. She then starts to scrap it on the surface of the purse.) It’s relaxing and gentle. Would you love to get some sleep now? (Now she was switching the noise of her voice in a rhythm from the right to lefts then back.) I want to help you with some massage on the scalp. It’s relaxing. I’ll now use a brush to give you a tingling feeling.”
The video went on for the next 20 minutes. When it was over, I returned into the search page and press on another movie. The second clip got posted in the past two weeks. However, it already had over two million viewers. The film was the same style and type as the one previously discussed above and had an approximate full-time length of 25 minutes.
After watching a number of these movies, I could not tell the exact feeling I had with my body. I could not say if I were relaxed. Was I feeling sleepy? Or was it more intense? In different ways, the ASMR videos appear more of regular guided meditation, hypnosis or relaxation inductions. They also had attention about caring for the viewer without necessarily doing anything physical for the viewers. The videos enquire about the viewer’s background information with no answers expectations. On the other hand, the viewer expresses tangling feeling which we assume to be happening.
I came to know about ASMR videos through a colleague. He knew about my interests towards improving my sleep using the behavioral techniques. For him, he heard about ASMR through social media news reports. And since 2010, these video clips gain millions of viewers when posted. Also, there are some live stream channels you can visit and watch real-time videos for hours.
The New York Times is among the newsletters that introduced individuals to these videos in the past. And with their increasing popularity, more articles about ASMR get published in different magazines and newspapers. A good example is the New Yorker. Also, this turns into a business opportunity for many entrepreneurs. They use questionnaires to understand what works for their clients. The Whole Websites also get to advertise the ASMR videos gathering information about them and what viewers feel about the videos. The New Yorker magazine is the latest to do a proper introduction on what ASMR clips entail.
From a few of the patients who have used this treatment technique, they report positive feedback. As a result, scientists are researching its ability to help people suffering from insomnia. For a long time, I had interests in the psychological benefits of the sound. By listening to a relaxing song, it controls the emotional state of an individual. Also, hearing the sounds of gentle rain or the sounds of nature from the wilderness or their recording brings in a calm environment to rest and sleep. And this is the contrast of the frightening and deep tones of a thunderstorm. Similarly sounds works to smell and sight by triggering emotions inside us. Therefore, there is a need to look at what ASMR sounds can result in and their power to facilitate body relaxation and in return improve on an individual’s sleep.
Can we now define “What is ASMR?” ASMR is a term defined by a nonscientist Jennifer Allen. She was after giving a name to these sensory activities which for the past years had no name. The letters represent Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It describes the tingling experience that happens in the crown of the head. It occurs in response to audio or visual sounds examples of tapping, hand movements, and whispering. According to the Wikipedia definition, it refers to experience with traits of a static-like on individuals’ skin. It starts around the scalp and runs down the neck to the upper part of the spine. The movements give back much o the history and background information. We can also describe it as a perpetual situation, where the presentation of sounds stimulates pleasurable and intense tingling sensations around the neck and the head. It then spreads to the rest of the body. In a study done in 2015, ASMR appears to be a sensory occurrence, where individuals experience a tingling, static sensation around the scalp, to the neck. The impressions happen to come with a feeling of full well-being and relaxation.
Since the establishment of these videos, many users turn to them with the aim of getting relaxed and relieved from insomnia, chronic pains, and depression. However, some viewers find these videos unpleasant and annoying to watch. But it doesn’t mean you’ll not find something important psychologically or emotionally. To some of the makers, they gather enough data to make the videos more interesting to the viewers. And like the behaviors mentioned above, these videos distract viewers from their worries by giving them comforting sounds. The sounds remind them of the care they received when they were children. Also, it may provide patients with a sense of directly care even though they’re among thousands of the viewers. But with the limited studies concerning the ASMR videos, it remains difficult to tell what going on in this case.
In 2015, Barret and Davis conducted an online survey to gather information about the ASMR components. They also aimed to know how ASMR relates to sensory experiences and the participants of the ASMR activities. The interviewees include the respondents of adverts presented to Reddit and Facebook groups of interest. It comprises of approximately 475 individuals with more males than the females. From the users, they report using the videos for relaxation purposes in 98% of the times. For insomnia and stress, it represents 82% of its mission. Also, they found that most of the used sounds include crisp sounds including finger tapping, repetitive movements, and slow movements. Also, whispering and personal attention commonly got used.
From their studies, ASMR is a tingling sensation that develops at the back of the scalp and moves down to the neck and then towards the shoulders. Too many of the participants, they also felt the sensation around their arms, legs and lower back. The extension of the feeling depends on the degree to which an individual gets triggered.
According to the survey, all participants expressed different levels of response to each of the triggers. Also, some medications such as Tranquilizers seem to stabilize the experience. For the depressed viewers, they report of feeling better after watching the videos. The improved feeling lasted for hours and then faded away. Among the individuals who expressed better results with ASMR include those who quickly experience the flow state. Such people experience more triggers from the ASMR videos.
The flow state characterizes people who deeply engage with activity and with a feeling of involvement and enjoyment. Such individuals express a link between the ASMR experience and emotional synesthesia.
A 2017 study by Fredbord, Clark, and Smith look at the personal traits of individuals that experienced ASMR. The study compares 284 individuals with ASMR in which 149 of the number were females. The control experiment comprised of 279 people with 156 of the women with no ASMR. The control subjects who had a response to the ASMR videos got eliminated from the study. The results found that individuals with ASMR scored higher on openness, with low levels of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness in comparison to the control experiment. Also, there was a link between different ASMR triggers such as whispering, and scratching sounds with the neuroticism dimensions and openness-to-experience. It indicates that people with ASMR have better sensation sensitivity and receptivity. The high degrees of depression among people with ASMR in association with low emotion levels could be the reason behind neuroticism. From the study, ASMR associates with unique personality traits. And this explains why not all people experience the ASMR sensations.
In 2018, a study conducted by Hostler, Blakey, Veltri, and Poerio confirms that, viewing ASMR had improved positive emotions for individuals with ASMR experience. Also, they identified that ASMR associates with physiological makers with the reduced heartbeat and increased conductance of the skin. What it means is that, with response to the ASMR experience, there exists a decrease in physiological activation which gets evidenced by a reduction in heartbeats. Also, the increase in excitement reflects with increase with skin conductance. The findings were consistent for individuals with anecdotal reports.
Our last study got conducted by Fredborg, Smith, and Kornelsel in 2017 studies the “Default Mode Network,” among 11 individuals with ASMR and 11 who do not experience ASMR. The DMN usually compose of brain components that work together in activities such as mind wondering and daydreaming. The 11 members with ASMR aged from 18-37 years with five of them men. On the other hand, those without ASMR aged between 18-40 years. It was evident that, for individuals with ASMR, their DMN functional connectivity was less in comparison to the control experiment. The decrease in functionality associated with a reduction of attention control and involves inhibitions of emotional experiences suppressed in different individuals. The researchers claim that ASMR is helpful to those with it that, it helps them cope with stressful situations and fell relaxed.
Scientific research in medical and psychology fields goes a long path from identification, discovery to validation of the process. To make the technique legal for use clinical trials are useful. They help to separate the promising but unnecessary procedures from strategies that are beneficial to the users. And this is what ASMR videos are going through at the moment. By doing this, we ensure that they genuinely are useful to the viewers.
In conclusion, ASMR videos can be of great importance in treating individuals with insomnia. However, more research is necessary to figure out to whom it works excellently. So far, many people enjoy the benefits of viewing these videos in relieving stress and improving on sleep. Not everyone will find ASMR movies pleasant and to some individuals, it may feel disgusting and can result in disorders such as misophonia. Such a disorder makes some sounds like chewing unbearable to some individuals. And it’s these situations that raise questions why such sounds could result in different feeling with each. Such issues are what we look at in our next article. Follow us in the subsequent text for you to understand more about ASMR videos.