Who knew brain orgasms doubled as sound therapy?
Chances are you’ve seen the acronym ASMR on your Facebook feed at some point in the last two years. Was it Gal Gadot’s W Magazine video that made it on your radar? Jake Gyllenhaal’s perhaps? Or Margot Robbie’s? With a celebrity onscreen, a microphone on either side and a regular item on set with them, the ongoing trend that is the ASMR interview invites stars to “explore the wonders of whispers and sounds.” The microphones featured in these videos pick up even the most minute detail (of Salma Hayek crunching on tostadas, for example or Emily Ratajkowski using a lint roller on her jacket) and magnify these isolated sounds. What the audience gets is a high-definition experience…happening right in their ear. It’s a thrill, it’s a tingling sensation, it’s an audio trip—it’s a brain orgasm.
But the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response phenomenon (ASMR for short) has attracted a cult-like fascination long before the media hopped on the bandwagon. ASMR triggers have actually always been evident on television and in film. People just didn’t have a term for the result of these triggers then. Even for the ASMR-loving subset of content creators and viewers on YouTube, it was called “whisper porn” before anything else. Today, ASMR has blown things wide open as far as the science of sound is concerned. There is still a lot left to learn about the strange but pleasant tingling sensation. What is it about these high-definition sounds that gives of such a reaction? Why does it travel from the scalp, down the neck and, sometimes, to the listener’s limbs? What about how this type of audio acts as a sedative?
Maria of Gentle Whispering, one of the most popular ASMR artists on YouTube with over 1.3 million subscribers, has an idea: “Our society has become much quicker in every possible way. Our attention span is shorter. Our requirements are higher. Everything is pushed to the top—to the limit. ASMR slows down your perception of everything,” she told The New Yorker. “It lets you separate your anxieties and deal with things in a more structured way. And it takes you down and allows you to help yourself better.”
With the right triggers, these sounds can be, quite literally, feel-good tracks for the person listening. A five-minute listen is enough to get them to zone out, mellow out, slow down and relax. Could it work for you? Put these videos to the test before your bedtime. Pop in those earphones, turn up the volume, press play and close those eyes.
For starters, this soap cutting compilation to calm you down.
Now, a sound spa to help you find your center.
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Treat yourself to a virtual scalp massage.
Enjoy these 11 sleep-inducing sounds.
Play this three-hour video before bed.
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Could it be time to ditch your white noise recording and find your ASMR trigger instead?
Art Alexandra Lara