If you suffer from sleepless nights, relief may be mouse-click away. Insomniacs around the world are rediscovering sleep by tapping into their autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) via the Internet and YouTube. ASMR is activated by sound and visual stimuli and produces a tingly feeling at the top of the head which travels down the neck, spine and throughout the body. It has been likened to a "brain-gasm", or a type of euphoria, which produces relaxation and sleep.
ASMR is a new-take on sleep therapy. It started surfacing around 2008 and has grown to a cult-like following. It is the missing puzzle piece that is bringing back sleep for tens of thousands of insomniacs. When they go to bed they are turning on their laptops or YouTube applications on their cell phones, tuning into an ASMR artist’s channel, and within minutes they are asleep.
It is hard to describe ASMR to someone who has not experienced it. Have you ever found yourself feeling tingly and sleepy during a quiet class lecture, while sitting under the hairdryer at the salon, or by listening to the rustle of newspaper as someone nearby was reading it? Perhaps this sleepy response was triggered in you by watching someone paint, by the sound of dripping water, hearing a scratchy noise, or by hearing people nearby talk low, quiet and in whispers? If you have experienced these sensations, you have stumbled upon your ASMR trigger. Each individual is different and will have their own trigger.
Some may obtain what is being called the "brain-gasm" from the sound of water being poured into a cup, others may reach it by listening to the voice of someone quietly reciting Latin words, or by hearing the sound of fingers being continually rubbed over a brush. Some have found sleep comes when they listen to taps being made on various types of surfaces, or by listening to someone talk about an experience they had, or watching someone perform an intricate, detailed task, or watching someone knit.
Whatever your trigger may be, it is possible to discover it. ASMR artists have uploaded a vast spectrum of videos on their YouTube channels to help you find yours. Triggers have been likened to wearing shoes; you’ll know the one that fits you when you find it. With some artists having over 12 millions views on their videos, the chances of finding your trigger is high. When you do find it, don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling tingly and drifting off into sleep.
Since ASMR is so new, there is little research on the experience. Many liken it to meditation or relaxation therapy, others feel the ASMR releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine has been found to help regulate movement, emotional responses, as well as the pleasure and reward systems in the brain. But whatever science discovers about the neurological underpinnings of this new type of sleep therapy, insomniacs around the world profess it to be a sensory experience that can relieve insomnia symptoms and relax their over-stimulated brains.
Initially, many people do not take ASMR seriously and view it skeptically. After all, there are many myths surrounding insomnia. Yet, when they begin viewing the videos and randomly stumble upon their own personal triggers, their opinions change. No doubt the discovery of ASMR will have an impact on sleep studies and research for years to come.
Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free insomnia sleep training. His online course uses CBT techniques to teach participants how to sleep better without relying on sleeping pills. More than 5,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 97 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.