A little over a year ago, I was teaching a writing class for an alternative healthcare university and one of my students wrote a paper about ASMR. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about and I had never heard of it before, so I did a quick YouTube search – and I was almost instantly hooked!
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and it usually refers to a tingling, relaxing sensation some people feel in response to certain “triggers,” such as having your hair brushed or having someone talk to you in a calming manner. Have you noticed that Bob Ross’s painting videos are suddenly extremely popular again? That’s ASMR! His calm voice and gentle movements are typical ASMR triggers. While the responses to ASMR videos can vary from person to person, the most common use for them is to help people go to sleep.
I have suffered from insomnia most of my life, but it seems to have gotten even worse as I’ve gotten older. Running my own business and having children certainly has not helped lower my stress levels! I’ve tried everything over the years to get more sleep, from medication, herbs, essential oils, masks, white noise, and more. And while some of these things work sometimes, nothing is consistent. But when I started watching ASMR videos, I was able to sleep without any other aids. And I think I finally figured out why.
When I try to sleep, my mind races. It doesn’t matter how physically exhausted I am, my mind just never shuts off. I have to constantly think about all the things I need to do, the books I need to write, worry about money, worry about my kid, worry about things I have zero control over…It’s exhausting. I’ve never been able to “meditate” because who can “empty” their mind? It simply isn’t possible for me. But I recently learned that “emptying one’s mind” isn’t possible for anyone. It’s a myth. Meditation is actually a heightened state of focus and awareness – not nothingness. Usually, meditation is intense focus on one thing instead of a million things.
This is where ASMR comes in for me. By watching a relaxing video, I am able to focus on THAT, instead of the million other things plaguing my mind, which allows my mind to calm enough to go to sleep. It has a similar effect on the mind as exercise. Exercise is often recommended to treat anxiety and depression, but it isn’t simply moving that treats the depression. Just walking won’t help calm your mind. You have to move fast enough that you are concentrating on your movements instead of whatever is on your mind. Basically, if you are able to think about what to make for dinner tonight while you are walking instead of focusing on putting one foot in front of another to keep from tripping, you aren’t running fast enough for the exercise to help with your depression. It’s a form of hypnosis, which is also just another form of heightened awareness and focus. ASMR, meditation, exercise, hypnosis – when it comes to relaxing and healing your mind, it’s all the same thing.
Since I started doing ASMR, I haven’t needed any other sleep aids. It has also significantly helped with my depression and anxiety. I still have some depression and anxiety, but it is far more manageable.
Interested in trying ASMR for yourself? There are countless ASMRtists on Youtube, and it’s important to find voices and experiences that work for you. But here are my top 5 favorite ASMR channels to get you started.
Gentle Whispering ASMR
Latte does videos in English, Korean, and Japanese. She has the sweetest voice. She knocks me right out.
Goodnight Moon has a really fascinating series of medieval characters that I just love. Her sets and stories are really enjoyable to watch. This is more like a TV show than ASMR because you really fall in love with the characters and can’t wait to see what will happen next, but it has the same effect.
The Lune INNATE
The Lune Innate is actually a distance Reiki healing practitioner, but her methods are very ASMR-like in nature. So not only can she help you go to sleep, but she can help heal your chakras as well.
Crystal ASMR uses Reiki principles, but isn’t actually a Reiki master. But I really enjoy how short her videos are. If you just need something quick to get you to sleep, her videos are great to check out.
BONUS: Open Door Hypnosis
Open Door Hypnosis just announced that she is taking a YouTube hiatus, but you can still view her past videos to learn more about hypnosis and use it to fall asleep fast and deep.