What is ASMR?

Have you ever felt tingles in your head and deeply relaxed while getting a haircut, listening to someone turn magazine pages, listening to a specific person talk in a gentle manner, or while watching Bob Ross create a painting?

If so, then you have probably experienced Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

ASMR is becoming increasingly popular around the world and with celebrities.  A driving reason is that it seems to be very helpful for reducing stress and falling asleep.

ASMR can be described simply as a variety of soothing SENSATIONS (eg, tingles, relaxation, calmness, sleepiness) due to a variety of gentle STIMULI (eg, whispering, soft talking, light touches, methodical sounds).

The ASMR sensations can be categorized into:

  • Physical sensations:  tingles, chills, and/or waves in the head, neck, spine, and throughout the rest of the body.
  • Psychological sensations: good feelings of euphoria, happiness, comfort, calmness, peacefulness, relaxation, restfulness, and/or sleepiness.

The ASMR stimuli (often called “ASMR triggers”) can be categorized into:

  • Externally initiated (AKA, Type B ASMR):
    • Direct stimulus (eg, soft voice of someone next to you)
    • Live transmission (eg, soft voice via phone or live stream)
    • Recorded transmission (eg, soft voice via video or audio file)
  • Internally initiated or spontaneous (AKA, Type A ASMR):
    • Imagining or thinking about an ASMR stimulus
    • Meditating or using relaxation techniques
    • Spontaneous occurrences (stimulus absent or unclear)

Externally initiated ASMR stimuli/triggers can be:

  • Tactile (felt): light touch, massage, hair touching, grooming, physical examination
  • Visual (seen): eye contact, observing hand movements
  • Auditory (heard):
    • Spoken sounds: soft, whispering, slow, gentle, increased pitch, caring, monotone
    • Oral sounds: mouth sounds, chewing sounds, blowing sounds
    • Object sounds: tapping, scratching, cutting, crinkling, stroking, handling of objects

Common traits of ASMR stimuli/triggers:

Although there is a huge variety of ASMR stimuli/triggers, they generally tend to be repetitive, methodical, gentle, at a steady pace, and at low and/or steady volume.

The common theme to ASMR triggers is that they possess the universal patterns of non-threatening stimuli.  This may be the key to their ability to induce relaxation.  You can read more about biological and evolutionary theories HERE.

Intentional vs Unintentional ASMR:

The individuals who purposely create these stimuli are called ASMR artists (AKA ASMRtists, content creators) and their productions are called “intentional ASMR”.  The most common examples are YouTube video artists, but also include composers, poets, dancers, and more.

Stimuli/triggers created accidentally by individuals are called “unintentional ASMR”.   Examples include Bob Ross, teachers, hairdressers, clinicians, unboxing videos, and expert demonstrations.

Individuals who intentionally or unintentionally elicit ASMR in others tend to have the following dispositions: kind, caring, empathic, attentive, focused, trustworthy, dedicated, expert, and a calm vocal tone.

ASMR scenarios and role-plays:

Some of the strongest triggers for ASMR are “scenarios” which include a mix of stimuli/trigger types and involve someone with an ASMR disposition.  For example, watching Bob Ross paint includes a mix of audio triggers (gentle tapping sounds), visual triggers (methodical and expert hand movements), and Bob Ross’s gentle disposition.

If the scenarios are created on purpose to stimulate ASMR then they are called “ASMR role-plays”.  These are commonly performed by ASMR artists on YouTube.

General ASMR scenarios include: instructional demonstrations, methodical task completion, personal attention, focused activities, and consultations.  These scenarios may involve the person as a participant or as an observer.

Specific ASMR scenarios include: spa treatments, cranial nerve exams, hair salon visits, origami paper folding, unboxings, magazine page-turning, and soft spoken men painting methodically on canvas.

The benefits of ASMR:

Internet videos of individuals purposely simulating real-life ASMR triggers have grown widely popular in the last few years.  Viewers find many of these videos as relaxing as real-life ASMR triggers and quite helpful for falling asleep, de-stressing, and providing comfort during a sad time.

Some individuals with clinical diagnoses of medical disorders report that these videos are helpful to their insomnia, anxiety, panic disorders and/or depression.

The evidence for the potential benefit of ASMR for stress disorders, sleep disorders, mood disorders and more is slowly growing – read more HERE.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot to learn about the physiology of ASMR and the true effectiveness of ASMR for medical disorders.  That is why the mission of this website is to promote the awareness, understanding, and research of ASMR.

Learn more about ASMR:

  • History: when and how did the world discover ASMR?
  • Origin Theory: why and how do people experience ASMR?
  • Science: what has research discovered about ASMR?
  • Art: how do artists express ASMR?
  • Testimonials: how do others describe their ASMR?

Contribute to the Understanding of ASMR:

For the complete list of ASMR topics on this website:

Website mission: to increase the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. (How to cite)

Website founder: Dr. Richard (AboutContact)

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20 thoughts on “What is ASMR?

  1. I’ve had this my whole life. I was ecstatic to find there was a name for it and other people that might understand it! I love it but it also bothers me when I can’t stay awake in a library or even a store sometimes if there is a trigger sound near me. I have slept through much of school and fallen asleep on the job (usually during breaks) from work environment sounds since my first job. I keep reading about the great side of ASMR but there is also this annoying one. I probably wouldn’t trade it in though!

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    • Have you ever undergone a sleep study? I suspect you have narcolepsy, as I do. Have a night time sleep study followed directly by a daytime sleep study. This is the only way to determine whether or not you have narcolepsy. Do not waste money having either of these done without the other as it will not lead to any conclusion as to whether or not you are narcoleptic. Often when only a night time sleep study is done and some sort of disturbance is found, it is assumed that this is the only cause of the symptoms. This is not necessarily true as day time narcoleptic symptoms are in no way influenced by night time sleep quality or duration. Although I often suffer from insomnia as most narcoleptics do, my night time sleep study showed no disturbances over a full 8 hours of sleep. During my daytime sleep study which proceeding directly after, my average daytime sleep onset latency was 3.2 minutes. This is the time between lying down with eyes closing to clinically asleep, recorded during several trials throughout the day in which I was made to sit up out of bed and remain awake for 2 hours prior to being told to lie down with my eyes closed until falling asleep, then being woken after 15 minutes of sleep. My results were extreme. But anyone who can fall asleep in less than 5 minutes has narcolepsy. Many people believe that they can and have done so, however, with the exception of extreme sleep deprivation, similar to POWs and other torture victims, this is just not the case unless he person is narcoleptic. Other sleep disorders, such as apnea or restless leg, will not result in the level of sleep deprivation necessary to produce a 5 minute or less daytime sleep onset latency. Narcolepsy is the only disorder that will do so. There are also REM sleep abnormalities experienced by narcoleptics which can be found during such a sleep study. I hope that helps. There isn’t much that can be done for narcolepsy. There are prescription drugs that may help. But for me, being diagnosed was most beneficial in that it gave an explanation for my behavior that at least some people could understand, as opposed to having people viewing your behavior as irresponsible, rude, lazy, etc.

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  2. Wow, this actually has a name!! I’ve been experiencing this every since I was a little girl – I respond to all three triggers. I always wondered what this was and it just never occurred to me that other people might be experiencing what I did (in particular, the auditory and visual triggers). These experiences are so unbelievably pleasant and ultra-relaxing. Trance-like, out-of-body even…I just go to another place. I have a vague recollection of trying to describe what I was feeling to friends throughout my childhood and just beyond and they had no idea what I was talking about/looked at me like I was a little out there. So I’ve considered it a uniquely personal experience up until now. Very cool! I’ve got some research to do and some amazing relaxing videos to watch.

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  3. I’ve had head tingles for years, most commonly when sitting with sunshine hitting my back. But sometimes when there is no sunshine – so I’m going to have to start paying attention to possible auditory triggers. Neat!

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