It was 2014 when I first discovered the wonders of ASMR. I was having trouble falling asleep until I stumbled upon a baking video that didn’t have any background music or vocal instructions. It only featured the raw sounds and no-fuss visuals of baking a melon pan. While watching the video and hearing the sounds of flour being sifted and the batter being mixed, I felt a tingly sensation on the nape of my neck that traveled all the way to my head until I was lulled into sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, none of it made sense to me. After days of struggling to fall asleep, how did a simple baking video manage to knock me out in less than ten minutes? I went back to that same video and scrolled down the comments, wondering if it had the same relaxing effect on other people. It didn’t take long before I saw a popular comment that said, “I love ASMR baking videos. They always give me the best tingles.”
After seeing that comment, I did a quick Google search.
What is ASMR?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Yes, it’s a mouthful. Put simply, it’s the tingling sensation that a person gets when they watch stimulating videos or take part in activities that involve personal attention.
People experience the sensation, better known as “tingles,” from certain visual or auditory stimuli called “triggers.” ASMR triggers vary from person to person, and your childhood experiences may influence your preferences. This is because ASMR is set off by psychological factors, such as the feeling of closeness, comfort, intimacy, and connection.
For instance, my favorite ASMR trigger is ear cleaning because I loved it so much when someone cleaned my ears back when I was little.
Does ASMR affect everyone? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. I wish it did because it’s a pleasant experience that helps a lot of people relax and sleep better at night. There is also no scientific basis as to why only a subset of people experience the sensation or why certain triggers don’t affect others.
For example, brushing is a common ASMR trigger, but the sounds don’t stimulate or relax me at all.
Perhaps it works in the same way as sexual turn-ons. All of our brains vary in every possible way, reacting to stimulants differently. Some people are very specific in what they like, having a different pattern of pleasure stimulation than what is typical.
But out of a thousand possible ASMR triggers, here are the top favorites of the ASMR community, generally well-loved by both content creators and viewers.
Tapping is the most popular and widespread ASMR trigger. It is also the first trigger experienced by a lot of people. Content creators get creative with the surfaces that they tap on to vary the sounds that they can make, from apples to leather wallets and perfume bottles.
Ear cleaning is a huge trend in the ASMR community because of its closeness and intimacy. It also helps that the microphones ASMRtists use are binaural, making it seem like you’re actually experiencing someone cleaning your ears.
Personal attention or Roleplays
Some of us experience ASMR whenever we visit the dentist or have our hair done in a salon. Those relaxing circumstances are what ASMRtists try to recreate through their roleplay videos. Personal attention creates an intimate moment between you and the ASMRtist, helping you relax through familiar sounds.
Crinkles or Crinkling
Crinkle sounds are made by crumpling up different materials such as paper, plastic, aluminum foil or a community favorite – bubble wrap. Depending on the material that is crumpled up and the speed of the crinkles, ASMRtists can produce thousands of different sounds with this trigger.
Show and tell or Unboxing
Unboxing videos are surprisingly therapeutic to watch, which is probably why a lot of ASMRtists have jumped on the show and tell trend. My personal favorite is this video from albinwhisperland wherein she unboxes a package from DAVIDsTEA.
# of triggers in # of minutes
For people who can’t find a specific trigger, many ASMR videos showcase a plethora of different sounds. While some videos are ambitious, incorporating a hundred triggers in a four-minute video, there are more relaxing videos that focus on 50 triggers for over three hours.
A lot of people reduce ASMR to ridicule because they find it weird or they don’t experience the sensation. But the ASMR community on Youtube is a safe place for people who just want to relax and sleep better at night.
The next time you find yourself struggling to sleep or you want to calm yourself down after battling a negative situation, try watching one of the videos above. You don’t have to experience ASMR to to enjoy the content.
And if you’re an ASMR junkie like me, tell me your favorite trigger or ASMRtist in the comments below. I would love to know your ASMR journey and how it has helped you cope with the daily stresses of life.
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Chryss loves ice cream, literature, and East Asian pop culture. She would like to pet your dog.