Approximately one-third of people in the United States suffer from insomnia or regularly have trouble sleeping, according to the Sleep Health Foundation. Lack of sleep can cause health problems including increased risks of depression and heart disease. It can also make it harder for you to focus at your job or enjoy time with friends and family.
While over-the-counter remedies like putting a lavender sachet under your pillow or taking a hot bath before bed are enough for some people, others find that their only options seem to be prescription medications or living chronically sleep deprived. However, thanks to viral YouTube videos, there's a possible new strategy that may help those with insomnia and sleep problems fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer: ASMR
WHAT IS ASMR?
ASMR stands for autonomous meridian sensory response, and it's a term used to describe an overall tingling sensation on the skin that promotes a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. It's a spontaneous occurrence than can be brought upon by certain stimuli but is considered out of a person's realm of conscious control.
Some people describe it as a static-like feeling, while others compare it to a more intense version of the feeling you get when you have goosebumps. It starts at the scalp and head, spreads to the neck and spine and then to varying degrees throughout the rest of the body. Exactly how and where the sensation appears is unique to each individual.
WHAT ARE TRIGGERS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
Because ASMR is an autonomous response, it's not something a person can turn on or off voluntarily. While it's possible for advanced practitioners to achieve the sensation through meditation, breathing exercises or extreme focus, most people need some sort of stimuli. Auditory triggers are the most common, but physical and visual triggers can be helpful as well. Here is a list of physical stimuli that can trigger ASMR:
• Watching someone's hands moving, such as a video of someone folding towels or flipping pages
• Making prolonged eye contact
• Light-pressure massage
• Feeling someone run their fingertips lightly on your skin
• Someone playing gently with your hair
Auditory stimuli are more varied and can include any of the following:
• White noise or cyclical sounds such as those from a sound machine
• Monotone reading
• Slow and/or soft speech
• Chewing sounds
• Blowing air gently out of the mouth
• Scratching sounds
• Crinkling paper
• Cutting hair or paper
The repetitive nature of these triggering sounds, sights or touches lulls the brain into the aware but relaxed state necessary for ASMR. Some people also believe that because the majority of stimuli would be considered nonthreatening, it helps the primal part of the brain relax. Because the stimuli have different effects on different people, you may have to try several videos or techniques before you experience the euphoric tingling sensation. You may also find that, as you get more familiar with what ASMR feels like, you are able to reach that state faster and easier.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ASMR?
While ASMR can be helpful for anyone who is struggling with too much stress or anxiety, it's particularly beneficial for people who have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Using ASMR videos to wind down helps you shake off the day and get ready for a peaceful night's sleep, but the sensation itself also plays a role in helping you relax.
The feeling people achieve with ASMR primes the mind and body to relax, and it's much easier to fall asleep naturally when you are calm. It also sets you up for a deeper sleep cycle, which means you're less likely to fully wake when you move, roll over or hear a regular house noise.
Using ASMR videos can be especially helpful for people who travel a lot for business or experience jet lag due to time-change differences. If you use ASMR regularly as part of your before-sleep routine, your body will become conditioned to fall asleep more quickly after the ASMR, even if it isn't your regular bed time.
Because it takes some time to get into the relaxed state that makes it possible for your body to feel the ASMR sensation, most of the trigger videos are fairly long. Some last up to an hour or more, which means you can listen to them as you drift off to sleep. Some people like to watch them when they are already in bed so they are in the most comfortable sleeping space and don't have to worry about moving from the couch to the bed after they're already half asleep.
Just make sure that you have your TV or watching device set to turn off after a certain time so you aren't jolted awake by another video after the first one is done. The blue light electronic screens emit can also interfere with sleep, which is another reason to have a sleep timer or auto-shutoff after a set number of minutes.
ASMR videos can also be helpful for people who have anxiety or panic disorders because it helps bring the body and mind down from the hyperaware, fight-or-flight response and can decrease heart and respiratory rates for a more relaxed physical state. Some people use the videos as a type of self-soothing device, watching them when they are upset, sad, angry or just want to feel comforted.
While ASMR videos and the definition of ASMR itself are still relatively new, there is increasing scientific evidence for the positive results it can bring. The complete lack of any known negative side effects makes it an enticing option for those who don't want to use medications to treat their insomnia. If you're ready to try ASMR videos, YouTube is a great place to start and has many options available so you can see which stimuli works best for you.
Post written and submitted by Joe Auer