ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response is an internet trend that blew up in the past two decades. It refers to how our body reacts to certain sounds such as a whisper or smacking of slime. Our bodies react with a heightened response, which is said to be because of the emotional arousal that we’re having. With evidence suggesting that it relaxes the body and gives us an overall calm sensation, many questions have arisen whether ASMR has any health benefits.
There are many concerns over the reliability of ASMR as an actual tool to improve our health primarily because it is an internet phenomenon. Most reports show that only when they realised it was referring to a phenomenon that most people experience did they want to understand it better.
Now, we’re not saying that there have been no studies at all, but it is still a field of dispute. An interesting development has been the focus of research on how sound can affect our body and this can reveal its impact on our health. Let’s see what current research says about the health benefits of ASMR and how we can use it for the improvement of our own health.
Benefits of the ‘brain tingles’
Effects on Physiological Health
Many effects on the physiology of humans have been studied, and the most common response was that people experienced brain tingles that were succeeded by an emotional arousal. These tingles that they were referring to began at the top of their head. They conducted this study between people who experienced ASMR and those who didn’t. Only the ones that did experience it could feel better social connection. Their heart rate also decreased, proving their observations. Even their skin conductance levels were very high, which led them to feel less stressed and sleep much better. This evidence does suggest that ASMR can have health benefits on the overall physiology and health.
Effects on Mental Health
While its effects on physiology are clear in the heart’s reduction rate and the increase in skin conductance levels, it’s hard to miss the health benefits on our mental health. Because of increased levels of social connection, they have proposed it as a potential tool to combat anxiety and depression in people who can experience ASMR. There have been reports showing that they also experience increased levels of excitement, which could be the reason they feel less anxious.
There is a drawback to this from the mental health perspective and it’s because they experience ‘misophonia’ as well. This refers to a phenomenon in which a person absolutely cannot tolerate such sounds, so there is a high chance that they might get agitated and have the complete opposite effect of ASMR. Therefore, listeners are always suggested to proceed with caution.
How does it compare to other treatments?
When discussing the health benefits of a potential treatment, it’s customary to compare it to existing treatments in the market. To do this, they conducted a study to check the comparison between the effects of ASMR and music and mindfulness to reduce stress in the patient. People who experienced ASMR could reduce their overall heart rate by 3.14 beats per second but also increase their skin conductance response. This was only possible in people who can feel the sensation and not otherwise. They found it to be comparable to most music and mindfulness therapies that are currently being implemented in therapy sessions all across the world.
The fact that all the participants who experienced the brain tingles were able to report the same objective feedback for the way they felt goes to show that there is no bias in the study results. It increases the confidence of the medical fraternity in using ASMR as a potential treatment option and it’s an easy to implement option as well.
The health benefits of ASMR during COVID-19
One of the most out of turn discoveries has been the impact of the use of ASMR during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we all know that the pandemic has brought significant change for many industries and the ASMR industry is no different. Because of the increased amount of stress levels people were experiencing all over the world, it’s not completely unbelievable that they would seek alternative remedies to deal with their stress.
There were two health benefits of listening and watching such videos during the lockdown. One was that if they had difficulty getting sleep or were too anxious given the uncertainties of the pandemic, ASMR helped them sleep better and kept them relaxed overall. Another benefit was that they could feel an emotional and social connection due to the heightened emotional responses they were experiencing which kept feelings of loneliness at bay. We know those who experience it feel excited and relaxed at the same time, which is quite a hard response to elicit and this simple phenomenon helped them cope with the situation handed to them.
Why is research so limited in this domain?
As mentioned earlier, the phenomenon was discovered on the internet when a bunch of people started discussing it in online forums. Once scientists took a look, they realised that there was not much to back up this information. Even now, the medical fraternity is split on whether there are any actual health benefits of ASMR because of its story origins. This does not change the fact that further investigation is much needed.
The few studies by researchers have shown actual physiological and mental health benefits and there’s no reason to not probe it further. While its origin story might lie in a Reddit thread, it cannot undermine the fact that it can improve the lives of people who struggle with social and mental disorders.
With the emergence of many startups and YouTube channels dedicated to such content, we cannot deny the health benefits it provides and soon, extended scientific research will be backing it up too. All we have to say is if at this very moment you’re feeling stressed, why not check out some ASMR videos to calm those nerves down?
Keywords: ASMR, health benefits, brain tingles
- DiSalvo, D. (2018, June 27). ASMR Could Have Health Benefits Beyond The Brain Tingles, Study Suggests. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2018/06/27/asmr-could-have-health-benefits-beyond-brain-tingles-study-suggests/?sh=e87807b47523
- Hackett, M. (2021, June 4). ASMR is taking over the internet. So why does healthcare ignore it?. Retrieved from https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/asmr-taking-over-internet-so-why-does-healthcare-ignore-it
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- Raypole, C. (2020, April 6). Everything You Need to Know About Using ASMR for Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/asmr-anxiety
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- University of Sheffield (2018, June 22). Brain Tingles: The Physiological Benefits of ASMR. Retrieved from https://neurosciencenews.com/asmr-physiology-9426/