She lay still in the dark — stressing about school and unable to fall asleep in her once comfortable bed. She knew that sleep was a necessity, but her symptoms of insomnia worried her. She tried to relax, counting sheep and staring at the ceiling, but nothing worked.
Then, senior Hayeon Yun stumbled across a new trend — ASMR. According to NBC News, ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response,” occurs when someone feels a relaxing, tingling sensation upon listening to pleasing noises, like someone whispering or tapping a microphone. When she was stressed and couldn’t sleep during her freshman year, ASMR helped Yun calm down.
“I was like ‘oh there’s like sleep ASMR,’” Yun said. “[I] tried it out and I actually passed out, so I [thought], ‘Okay this is kind of cool.’”
As with many recent trends, ASMR started on social media. There is an excess of these videos on Instagram’s Explore page and Snapchat’s Discover function. For freshman Hasreet Grewal, her fascination with ASMR began on Youtube, where many people make ASMR videos.
“I was on Youtube one day and I saw all these slime videos,” Grewal said. “A bunch of my friends were watching people cut soap, and it was really satisfying. I just go on Youtube and go through my [Explore page] on Instagram; I’ll watch their accounts and stuff like that.”
While the ASMR trend is gaining popularity, the effect it has on people differs greatly. Some, like sophomore Roya Ahmadi, view ASMR very negatively. Ahmadi says that she doesn’t understand how ASMR videos could be relaxing.
“I thought it was pretty disgusting,” Ahmadi said. “I know that some people find it relaxing but I don’t think I relate with that at all. I find it a little bit weird.”
While Ahmadi views ASMR very negatively, there are also people who have a neutral standpoint. Sophomore Daanyal Raja likes the soothing sounds from ASMR, but at the same time, he understands why ASMR receives so much hate and criticism.
“I personally like it,” Raja said. “I don’t like it as much as some people but I don’t detest other people’s views. I find it to be relaxing. Some people find it kind of weird and creepy, and I can understand that viewpoint but I don’t agree with it.”
The varying opinions toward the legitimacy of ASMR could also reflect the lack of scientific research onto the subject. On his blog NeuroLogica, Dr. Steven Novella comments that study needs to be done into the differences in brain activity of people experiencing ASMR versus not. The lack of sufficient scientific inquiry into ASMR means that most of the evidence of what it does is based in anecdotes from people’s experiences.
Yet, overwhelmingly, people express that watching ASMR videos help them relax. Student advocate Richard Prinz says that these videos could help people by distracting them momentarily from their stress.
“It’s based on having a pleasurable experience,” Prinz said. “[It has] to do with interrupting brain patterns. If you keep getting caught up in a certain obsession or anxiety, there are things that somehow take your mind away from [it, and] interrupt that circuit. If just before you go to bed you do something like this, you’re getting your mind off of the things that worry you and make you anxious.”
Prinz says that therapies like meditation can have similar effects as ASMR. He says that both appear to have relaxing effects that help people move to a more peaceful state, and Grewal somewhat agrees. She believes that ASMR could have different effects in comparison to traditional therapy methods such as meditation.
“For some people it’s hard to focus with meditation, while ASMR can be more entertaining and help them relax,” Grewal said. “I think [ASMR is] more relaxing, but I think it has an entertainment factor in it that makes me want to watch it.”
This entertainment factor that Grewal mentions is part of the mass appeal of ASMR, as it allows people that don’t experience the tingling effect to partake in it as well. Senior Karishma Chari states that she doesn’t think that ASMR can be used in place of meditation, as it provides a different type of relaxation than meditation does.
“I just use it for entertainment,” Chari said. “I really like the sound of crunching vegetables. It distracts me for a little bit so if I’m studying and I get distracted, at least it’s a nice break. It’s calming and soothing, and I think with meditation it’s more de-stressing and focuses on becoming more peaceful.”
With all the controversy that ASMR receives, Yun believes that people who are truly dealing with problems like insomnia and stress shouldn’t have to hesitate to try out ASMR just because some people may believe it is weird. If their problems have a possibility to be solved by ASMR, then they should try it out.
“I don’t think it deserves as much as like the bash that it normally gets from other people. I think for me, it was like a therapeutic to a certain extent.” Yun said, “So like, I think if other people are dealing with insomnia, it is definitely an option, and they should really try it if they are in need of help.”