I was sitting in my suite getting ready for a night out when a curious topic arose among the group: ASMR videos. ASMR is short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and refers to a deeply calming state induced by a sensory trigger — some people even call it a “head orgasm.” Having never heard the term before, I was surprised at the strong reaction the topic provoked between those who were in the loop: some loved them and others absolutely hated them. My requests for clarification were met with confusing answers, but I eventually gathered that they are videos of people talking very quietly and crisply into the microphone in ways that relax the body and cause shivers. Popular ASMR YouTube artist Heather Feather, who has more than 180,000 subscribers, describes the sensation as “really good chills that feel akin to the chills you get when someone draws on your back or plays with your hair or watch someone do something like Bob Ross.” But why are people responding so strongly? And does this phenomenon have a scientific basis?
ASMR might be difficult to understand without experiencing it yourself. Curious? Find a quiet space, put your headphones in, and listen to a few seconds of this video:
See what I mean? You might not be surprised to learn that ASMR is primarily used as a sleep aid and relaxation technique. Although the efficacy of this method has not been well probed by the scientific community, those who have reported positive benefits all seem to agree that it induces a sort of meditative calmness. According to The ASMR Lab, many ASMR videos are basically “forms of guided meditations, [and] meditating regularly has been shown to reduce stress levels and aid concentration among many other things.” And we all know that personal, introspective practices like meditation can do wonders for the chronically stressed or overworked.
As The Guardian suggests, these “head orgasms” could have a number of psychological roots. To begin, the experience is very personal: artists often make eye contact and develop trust between themselves and the viewer, which can be very comforting and reassuring. In addition, this type of therapy does not typically come up in everyday life, so when people do have a chance to experience it they react immediately — and strongly. Not everyone finds this sensation pleasing, but many who do seem to have discovered real benefits. So listen on, YouTubers — everyone needs a good relaxation session sometimes.
To some, this may just seem like pseudoscience. And while there isn’t sufficient scientific research, many proponents across the internet contend that the anecdotal evidence is convincing enough. Until further research is conducted, why don’t you be the judge?