What is ASMR? Does It Help with Insomnia?

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Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is unique experience that describes a tingling sensation on the skin. People describe the sensation that begins at the scalp and moves down through the back of the neck into the upper part of the spine. For some, the experience can move throughout the rest of the body as well. Most people describe the sensation as calming, relaxing, and pleasurable. It is a phenomenon that people experience but researchers have yet to figure out exactly why it happens. There are some theories hypothesizing that ASMR occurs to encourage bonding between people. For some, they can induce ASMR by listening to hushed tones or being lightly touched by someone. These sensations involve being in close proximity to someone else, leading to the theory that ASMR helps with human bonding. People have been able to find some triggers of the response to the point where it can be intentionally created. However, ASMR still remains somewhat of a mystery.

Forms of meditation or audio or visual triggers can be used to prompt ASMR. Some of the audio and visual triggers can include mundane, normal tasks like folding laundry or brushing your hair. It also can include triggers like the

Insomnia is a disorder marked by difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. People who have insomnia often wake up frequently during the night or find themselves lying awake for hours, struggling to fall asleep. Insomnia can occur from other health concerns or certain medications, but for many people, insomnia can come from struggling to relax, slow down the mind, and calm certain anxieties. When people describe ASMR, they often include the term relaxing, calming, and even euphoric. It puts them in a state where they can relax and experience a sense of peace. For someone struggling with insomnia, that wave of peace can put the mind and body in a better state of relaxation. Being in that type of state can be more conducive for initiating and maintaining sleep. Some people can elicit this type of response through meditation and visualizing certain tasks in their mind. Others find videos or audio files helpful and will keep them going in the background until they drift off to sleep. There are plenty of those resources available for me to access online. For others, touch can bring about this sensation through being lightly rubbed or massaged. If you have a willing partner, some physical touch can help encourage ASMR as well.

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ASMR might not be for everyone. Some people might struggle to experience the desired sensation. However, insomnia can be a really difficult challenge for many people. Attempting to induce ASMR can provide a simple way to help lull you to sleep, particularly if you want to avoid using medication or other substances. If ASMR can help you get a good night’s sleep, it could be worth a try.

Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology.  Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.