ASMR Lovers, Rejoice! A New Study Says YouTube's Whispering Videos Are Actually Good For You

Photo by Julia Volk

ASMR, or the "brain tingles" more officially known as the autonomous sensory meridian response, is finally having its moment. New research out of the University of Sheffield explored whether ASMR had any physical or mental benefits and found that watching ASMR videos was actually linked with both.

This is a big deal. Up until recently, studies have been conducted on all kinds of healing modalities: The science of sound, acupuncture, and hypnosis all have science backing them as they become more popular in modern wellness culture. But no one was paying ASMR any mind, except for its super-enthusiastic user base. Last year, ASMR went mainstream, and now there are upward of 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube alone. There's been a tizzy of activity around ASMR videos lately. It was actually banned in China earlier this month because the government claimed that porn was leaking into video platforms under the guise of ASMR. Whether that's true, many people actually use the term "ear porn" in jest to describe ASMR, perhaps counterproductively, as ASMR artists are already subject to harassment.

People who experience a response to ASMR videos—which isn't everyone, by the way—usually have certain triggers. For some it's tapping, others it's hair brushing, others it's whispering, and there are many more. The feeling is described as a pleasant, relaxing tingling that starts in the head and moves down the body, sometimes through the trunk and the limbs, until the listener is deeply relaxed. In the new research, scientists found that ASMR listeners actually experienced a drop in heart rate, which is physical evidence of the relaxation.

The study was conducted in two parts. For both, they used populations of people who experience it and those who don't. In the first, both groups of people watched two ASMR-triggering videos and a control. They found that people who experience ASMR had a significantly lower heart rate after watching the ASMR video (lower by about 3.14 beats per minute), as well as boosts in feelings of social connection and other positive emotions. Interestingly, those who don't experience ASMR also missed out on the relaxing benefits.

Dr. Giulia Poerio, the lead author on the study, told Science Daily, "What's interesting is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants was comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness."

The second experiment was based on a survey given to 1,000 people—again, split into ASMR experiencers and normal people. Researchers found that those who experience ASMR were more likely to feel "more frequent tingling, increased levels of excitement and calmness, and decreased levels of stress and sadness" than their normal peers.

Want a primer on ASMR? Look no further.

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