The Sleepy World of ASMR

It’s late at night, and you’ve been stressed out studying for the last 3 hours for that exam tomorrow morning. You can’t seem to fall asleep and all the sheep have been well accounted for. As you mindlessly scroll through Instagram, you come across a video titled "ASMR" where someone is whispering lightly into a mic. You’ve heard of it before, but you ask yourself “What is this stuff and why do people watch this?” While ASMR is known as “that weird quiet whisper thing,” it can actually be useful for college students trying to fall asleep or to help relax before finals. Additionally, ASMR can help you outside of being a college student. People often find that it helps lower anxiety and depression and provides a relaxing, close-knit community bonded over this tingly sensation.

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In order to understand the depths of the ASMR community and why it’s so intimate and relaxing, we must look at its humble origins which date back to 2007. Jennifer Allen, the creator of the term ‘ASMR,’ first found early definitions of this term on the health forum Steady Health's article titled “Weird Sensation Feels Good." There, commenters described the feeling as a tingling, gentle sensation from the nape of the neck down to the spine after triggers like head massages or turning pages in a book (ASMR University). Allen, who had her own experience with a friend writing something on her hand, began to research the sensation, eventually coming up with a bona fide name: ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. She then used this new name to create a Facebook group for her forum friends, and from there, the modern ASMR community was born. There, they would share their own videos full of various quiet triggers and uploaded them to Youtube for each other to enjoy (NY Times). Today, there are thousands of ASMR Youtubers out there, widely known as “ASMRists” (ASMR-artists), who create thousands of new video ideas, ranging from roleplays to eating food on camera (commonly known as the Korean term “mukbang”). I’ll be explaining these to those of you who are new to ASMR.

         

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For different types of ASMR, we have to start with the easiest videos, known as “trigger videos.” Although the word “trigger” has a negative connotation, in ASMR, triggers are different techniques and tools used to send tingles through one’s head or spine. Common triggers can be brushing someone’s hair, whispering into the mic, tapping the mic lightly, etc. Some are super creative, such as sticking slime over a mic, while some are as simple as tapping acrylic nails on a reusable cup. Up next is the food ASMRs, which are not-so-popular ones. Typically, in ‘mukbang’ ASMRs, one will just eat certain foods close to a mic. For some people, crunchy fried chicken could be a trigger (now I’m really hungry!). However, I personally don’t like them as much. Lastly, we have the roleplay ASMRs. Easily, these are my favorite, as people go to great lengths of research just to make one video, dressed up as a certain role or character. Recently, I watched on where someone dressed up as a doctor in a doctor’s appointment and went so far as to decorate their backdrop like it was a legitimate doctor’s office. I was awed by their dedication to their character. Though these may seem like already too many types, there are countless more that you can browse through on either Youtube or even the Internet.

Because ASMR is so diverse in topics, you’re probably curious as to why it’s so popular today, especially if it seems like it’s “just whispering.” As I mentioned previously, ASMR helps people feel more relaxed. However, studies show that ASMR, in addition to mentally relaxing people, can physically help lower heart rates as much as “3.14 beats per minute” (University of Sheffield). From this, people feel much more relaxed, and 82% of people who watch and experience ASMR use it to help treat insomnia (Psychology Today). So, other than it being a ‘modern fad,’ ASMR could potentially be developed in the future for medical purposes, or diagnosed to those that have a hard time sleeping or relaxing.

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ASMR is a phenomenon that took the world by quiet whispers, taps, and brushing noises. I strongly recommend you check it out during finals time. As you now know, there are many different types of it, and I recommend you try to find what your ideal video is if you’re up for trying it out. Who knows, maybe it can help you get some well-needed snoozes, instead of cram-studying for the next day!