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What is ASMR? (And Why Certain People Love it)

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In the age of internet content, it’s become impossible not to have heard of ASMR.

But if you’ve never tried or been able to get into it, ASMR seems incomprehensibly strange. Why are people listening to someone scratch a microphone with a fork?

But, believe it or not, there might be more to this fad than meets the ear.

In this article, we’ll go into the science of ASMR, its potential benefits, and the main styles of ASMR.

If you want to learn more about ASMR or are tempted to try, this is your guide!

What is ASMR?

ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a sensory reaction some people experience when they listen to specific auditory triggers. The feeling is often described as: 

  • A delightful, tingling sensation on the skin
  • That starts on the scalp and travels down the neck
  • Sometimes, it extends to the spine 
  • Includes feelings of relaxation and well-being

Usually, when people talk about ASMR, they refer to YouTube videos.

ASMR is continuing to gain popularity. Here is a graph of the search trend on YouTube:

A graph of the search trend of ASMR on YouTube.

Many people describe it as a brain massage.

You can also think of it as a type of auditory pleasure. In the same way that it can feel amazing to have someone tickle your arm with a feather or squeeze your muscles, it can feel fantastic for some people to hear certain gentle sounds on a high-quality recording.

ASMR stimuli, often called “triggers,” range from whispers, gentle tapping, and the rustling of paper to the meticulous act of someone folding laundry.

Triggers are also highly individual. While one person may love the feeling they get when hearing someone whisper, another person might only get these feelings from hearing the pages of a book turn.

Neurological Effects of ASMR

Is ASMR legit? Does it affect your brain, or is it just an overhyped fad?

The short answer is, yes, ASMR does affect your physiology.

Here’s how:

  • Brain activation: Using tools like fMRI, scientists have noted distinct brain activity during ASMR experiences. Studies show1 that people who experience ASMR tingles show significant brain activation in regions associated with reward and emotional arousal.
  • Dopamine and oxytocin: Listening to ASMR is also shown to release dopamine and oxytocin1—two neurotransmitters that make us feel pleasure and emotional warmth. 
  • Heart rate reduction: Studies have found2 that when listeners tune into their favorite trigger, they experience a slowed heart rate, a sign of deep relaxation.
  • Brain Waves: ASMR also gives rise to alpha wave activity3 in the brain, which is a brain state associated with meditative states and relaxation. 

Benefits of ASMR

With that knowledge, let’s see how these reactions translate into tangible benefits.

  • Stress and anxiety relief: ASMR’s soothing nature can help calm the nerves and create a feeling of calm and relaxation. ASMR has even been shown4 to improve symptoms for people with depression.
  • Sleep aid: If you explore the online ASMR universe, it will only take a short time to see how many people use it to help with insomnia. And for good reason—research has shown5 that ASMR helps participants fall asleep, especially when layered over binaural beats.
  • Mood enhancement: Many people report that ASMR helps them feel better. The release of dopamine and oxytocin plays a role here, giving people that warm, fuzzy feeling.
  • Focus and concentration: Surprisingly, some folks find that ASMR, especially ambient soundscapes, can boost concentration. ASMR has been shown4 to create a flow state.
  • Pain management: Research4 suggests that ASMR helps lessen chronic pain symptoms.
  • Social connectivity: While this may seem counterintuitive given ASMR’s digital realm, many find a sense of community and connection within the ASMR world. Engaging with content creators or fellow enthusiasts can combat loneliness or isolation. Plus, many ASMR videos are created in a way where you can form a quick parasocial relationship with the ASMRtist.

Due to its relaxing nature, for many, ASMR can be a tool to let go, relax, and recover from burnout. If you are experiencing burnout and would like more tools to overcome your situation, you might enjoy this free guide.

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What Type of People Are Drawn to ASMR?

One group of researchers6 looked at which personality traits ASMR fans share. They found that those who experience ASMR tingles tend to be:

  • High in openness to experience (creative, curious, enjoy new ideas)
  • High in neuroticism (experience anxiety, worry, and mood swings)
  • Low in conscientiousness (lax about rules, commitments, and followthrough)
  • Low in extraversion (prefers solitary and quiet activities over social ones)
  • Low in agreeableness (more competitive than cooperative and less likely to go along with things for social harmony)

Different Types of ASMR

Now that we know how ASMR can impact you, let’s go over some of the most popular types of ASMR and check out an example of each.


The classic and most popular. ASMRtists softly whisper into a microphone, either reading a story, chatting casually, or even mumbling inaudibly. The gentle, hushed tones often send listeners into a whirlwind of relaxation.


Whether it’s the rhythmic tap on a wooden surface, the delicate click of nails on glass, or the steady beat on a book’s hardcover—tapping is ASMR gold. It’s like the heartbeat of the ASMR world.


Think of the rustle of a plastic bag, the crumple of parchment paper, or the delicate crackle of wrapping paper. These subtle, textured sounds can be oh-so-soothing for many.

Eating sounds (mukbang)

While not everyone’s cup of tea, listening to the sounds of chewing, slurping, and crunching is profoundly satisfying for some. It’s an auditory feast. These videos also often include an ASMR-stylized food preparation before the ASMRtist chows down.


Dive into scenarios where the ASMRtist might act as a caring doctor, attentive hairdresser, or meticulous makeup artist. Here, it’s not just the sounds but the personal attention and immersive experience that does the trick.

Close personal attention

Close-up camera work where the ASMRtist might pretend to give a facial, apply makeup, or even pluck imaginary things off the viewer. It taps into our innate need for care and attention.


This can be the sound of a hairbrush gliding through hair, a makeup brush against the mic, or even a paintbrush on canvas. Soft, repetitive, and downright calming.

Page turning

Ah, the simple joys! The gentle flutter of pages being turned in a book or magazine is a nostalgic comfort for many.

Liquid sounds

Imagine the gentle splash of water being poured, the fizz of an effervescent tablet in a glass, or the bubbling of a brook. Audio recordings of liquid can flow straight into our relaxation zones.


From the gentle graze on rough fabric to the soft scratch on a mic or even the scrabble of pen on paper. These textured sounds are a favorite for many looking to induce those tingles.

Slime ASMR

Here’s a niche where Youtubers will play with slime with their hands. It’s oddly visually captivating, making sounds you couldn’t find anywhere else.

Precision craftsmanship ASMR

Something is mesmerizing about watching a craft executed with impeccable detail and precision. This type of visual stimulus ASMR offers the usual tingles and profound respect for the artisan’s dedication to their craft.

Mystery medley ASMR

There are many ASMR videos where the ASMRtist makes sounds with items you never would have thought to listen to. Whether they’re rubbing together a pair of gardening gloves or sloshing around a cup of ice cubes, there’s just something to these sounds.

Strange and creative videos

ASMR has become an art form, and many ASMRtists have taken the medium in a completely unexpected direction. Below are a couple of ASMR videos that are more niche.

Origins of ASMR

It was around 20077 when a user called “okaywhatever51838” posted in an online health forum about random tingles they’d feel. 

Soon after, online forums began buzzing with individuals sharing experiences of this ‘weird but pleasant’ tingling sensation. They discussed how certain sounds or actions, like the soft voice of a librarian or the crinkle of paper, induced these tingles. 

Then, in 20098, a YouTuber called “Whisperinglife” created the first ASMR YouTube channel. Here is a link to the first ASMR video!

Then came Jennifer Allen, a pioneer in the world of ASMR. In 2010, she proposed “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” to describe this phenomenon. The goal was to give it a neutral, non-sexual, and scientific-sounding name that a larger audience and potentially research could embrace. She also created the first ASMR Facebook group.

Thanks to her efforts, the term ‘ASMR’ gained traction, and soon after, a sprawling community began to form, especially on platforms like YouTube. Here, content creators, now popularly known as ASMRtists, started crafting videos tailored to elicit these tingly responses. 

Frequently Asked Questions About ASMR

Why do people like ASMR?

Many people like ASMR because it is a soothing escape, a unique blend of sounds that offers a comforting, almost therapeutic experience. Many describe the feeling ASMR gives them as “brain tingles.”

Why does ASMR make me sleepy?

ASMR makes you sleepy because its gentle rhythms and sounds naturally lull the mind, creating an environment conducive to relaxation and sleep.

Why does ASMR work?

ASMR works because it taps into our brain’s response to specific stimuli, producing a sense of calm and even those signature tingles in some.

Takeaways on ASMR

Hopefully, you have an enjoyable journey into the world of ASMR! Here are a few things to remember:

  • Brain and body connection: ASMR doesn’t just give you tingles; it interacts with the brain in fascinating ways, promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and even aiding sleep.
  • Benefits: Beyond relaxation and entertainment, ASMR has additional benefits like improving mood, enhancing concentration, and providing temporary relief from chronic pain.
  • Individual experience: The magic of ASMR lies in its individuality. What triggers the tingles in one person might do nothing for another, emphasizing the deeply personal nature of the experience.
  • Variety is key: ASMR isn’t just about whispers and tapping; from the exquisite detail of craftsmanship to well-produced role-play scenarios, the world of ASMR is vast and diverse.
  • ASMR’s origins: While now booming online, this sensory phenomenon has deep-rooted origins and has been around longer than the Internet age.

If you’d like to explore the science behind other auditory backdrops, here’s a fascinating article on how listening to music positively impacts our brains.

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