BY: VANESSA NIGRO
Have you ever been watching someone perform a very intricate or high-concentration task, or take part in a stimulating conversation, when suddenly you are overcome with an unwarranted tingling sensation? The feeling starts at the top of your head, then at the base of your neck, and soon the sensation moves south down your spine, overrunning you with a soothing wave of ecstasy.
This new-age take on sleep therapy is a phenomenon that hasn’t been around for long. It first found footing in online medical and social chat rooms in 2008. Since, the ASMR community has grown a cult-like following and millions of curious spectators.
ASMR is difficult to describe to those who haven’t had the experience, but it is commonly characterized as a blissful tingling beginning in your scalp. The tingling is caused by various visual and auditory stimuli that have been known to prompt a calm euphoria that induces sleep. Actually, ASMR has been known to cure numerous cases of insomnia.
“Have you ever been at the doctor, or maybe watching someone paint on television, and felt a relaxing tingling sensation on your scalp or neck? Keep reading if the answer is yes, because you might be someone who can experience this unique sensation and you’re just about to open your eyes to a whole new world,” boasts the ASMR Lab website.
Because there has been little research into the science of ASMR, it has piqued the interest of many. Though some are skeptical, calling the phenomenon a pseudo-science, tens of thousands of people worldwide swear by the practice.
Not everyone is capable of engaging in ASMR, but a “trigger” activates the experience for those who can. Triggers are like shoes: Until you find the one that fits you perfectly, the experience is less than desirable.
To accommodate participants’ needs, ASMR artists have emerged and taken to making YouTube videos to ensure there are a vast spectrum of trigger videos available to help the insomniacs of the Internet close their eyes. Some especially popular ASMR artists have over 12 million views on their trigger videos and tens of thousands of followers on their channels.
Common trigger videos include the sound of water dripping, soothing voices, watching someone paint, the sound of scratching and tapping on a hard surface, or watching someone perform a task that requires significant concentration.
As per usual, with commonality comes the unconventional; there is a sub-genre of trigger videos that utilizes various role-playing scenarios to coax the desired affects of ASMR. A popular YouTuber in the ASMR community who goes by the screen name BrittanyASMR has made trigger videos playing various roles—a soft-spoken perfume sales woman, an Alice in Wonderland–inspired tea party patron, a Lord of the Rings Elvish chanter, a wood nymph living in a forest, even Angelina Jolie’s villainous character from the popular 2014 Disney movieMaleficent.
Despite the “brain orgasm” nickname and role-playing and fantasy videos, ASMR enthusiasts have stressed that there is nothing sexual about the practice; it is merely a way to cure sleep deprivation.
Facts about ASMR’s existence and how it works are still a mystery, and the verdict of the general population is far from unanimous. Many view the practice as absurd and bizarre; to others, trigger videos are a nightly routine. But with millions of YouTube viewers and subscribers, ASMR could be the sleep therapy of the future, sparing thousands the experience of swallowing melatonin or prescription pills every night for the rest of their lives.