Complete Guide To ASMR: What It Does And How It Works

Have you ever touched a certain texture and felt chills down your spine? How about hearing a sound that makes you feel a deep sense of relaxation? You may have already experienced the ASMR without even knowing it. Learn more in this complete guide to ASMR.

1. Introduction

ASMR is currently rising in popularity, and it isn’t hard to see why. There are so many benefits of listening to ASMR videos in terms of mindfulness and allowing the brain to relax for a minute.

Because so many of us live incredibly hectic lifestyles, it can be challenging to slow down.

ASMR can help us to do that, as well as provide a little relief on the whole.

From sounds and experiences in nature, to unique videos that bring out a similar response, this is a complete guide to ASMR and how it has become so popular during recent years.

What Is ASMR & What Does It Stand For?

2. What Is ASMR & What Does It Stand For

Firstly, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a physical and psychological sensation that instills a feeling of calmness.

It is commonly the name given to the feeling of chills up your spine, or tingles at the back of your neck.

This usually happens along with a feeling of deep relaxation and even a pleasant scalp tingling. Many have described the sensation as euphoric when they watch ASMR videos, or listen to soundtracks.

There are a range of different forms of ASMR which are explored by content creators and other forms of output. Because of this, there truly is something for everyone within the world of ASMR.

What Happens In Your Brain During An ASMR Experience?

3. What Happens in Your Brain During An ASMR Experience

When someone listens to, or experiences ASMR, it is believed that an area in their prefrontal cortex is activated. This is the area that handles social behavior and the reward system brain regions.

Within the brain, ASMR has been linked to the release of oxytocin as well as other endorphins in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This leads to the deep sense of relaxation that is felt when experiencing ASMR.

Although there is still limited evidence into the effects of ASMR on the brain, many believe that it is related with synesthesia.

This is what happens when certain individuals experience an overlapping of the senses, like hearing colors.

Others believe that ASMR is a result of the placebo effect. Meanwhile, some think that certain individuals that enjoy the experience of ASMR tend to process certain sensations and stimuli slightly differently.

There are also suggestions that listening to sounds linked with the ASMR experience create a sense of relaxation in the prefrontal cortex.

This then spreads to the rest of the body, which can be experienced through a feeling of calmness, and even reduced stress or feelings of sadness.

Recent studies have outlined how differences in certain people’s brain wiring can impact the effects of ASMR.

Individuals who are known as ASMR-receptive are those who benefit from the experience as a whole, and enjoy the feeling of intense relaxation that ASMR can create.

They are more sensitive to ASMR, and have more functional connectivity in their brains than those who are non-ASMR sensitive.

This means that the parts of the brain which are responsible for creating the response to ASMR are more connected.

These individuals tend to be more sensitive to certain emotions and stimuli, and their social cognition centers are activated while listening to ASMR.

In general, this does not mean that people who are more sensitive to ASMR and the tingly sensation have more active brains.

It simply means that the connections between certain parts of the brain are used more frequently.

These individuals typically find it harder to inhibit stimuli from their surroundings, and they can experience empathy as well as frisson while experiencing ASMR.

Why Do People Use ASMR?

4. Why Do People Use ASMR

The great thing about ASMR is that it can be used in a variety of ways. These include helping people to relax at the end of their working day, promoting mindfulness, and more.

For some, it can be used for helping them process new information or stimulus that they have experienced. Others enjoy ASMR for the distraction and immersive nature that certain videos create.

There is a soothing element to many ASMR videos or playlists. Many people have found this to be comforting, and the experience has been known to help people with anxiety disorders.

Keeping everyday stress in check or managing mood are some of the reasons why ASMR is so popular.

However, the cult following of this sensation is primarily due to the deep relaxation that ASMR can bring. Many rely on some form of ASMR to help them fall asleep, or even for help with insomnia.

Quieting a busy brain could be an excellent way to force yourself to sleep more deeply if you haven’t tried ASMR for yourself yet.

Can ASMR Help You To Sleep?

5. Can ASMR Help You To Sleep

Because ASMR is known for promoting a feeling of deep relaxation in the brain and body, many people listen to ASMR sounds to help them sleep. It has been credited with helping ease insomnia in some cases, too.

While there is still a significant amount of scientific research to be obtained, ASMR has been associated with sleep.

This is due to the overall tension relief and sense of relaxation that is experienced. ASMR has been associated with the areas of the brain that release oxytocin and dopamine.

The main reason why ASMR videos could be less suitable for sleep is the screens that are involved. Screens give off blue light, which is said to inhibit melatonin production.

This is known as the sleep hormone, because it helps the mind and body ease into a peaceful sleep.

However, many people play rain or thunder sounds on long playlists to fall asleep to. This means that they don’t necessarily need to look at their phone or computer screen for long periods of time when they are trying to rest.

What Is An ASMR Trigger?

Some of the most common forms of ASMR are visual, auditory, or a combination of both.

A trigger is the type of stimuli that creates the tingling feeling beginning at the crown of the head that spreads to the limbs and down the spine.

While ASMR is the name of the experience itself, the triggers are the types of stimuli that can induce this response. Everyone has slightly different neural pathways, depending on their lifestyle and interests.

Because of this, it is not uncommon for someone to feel the effects of ASMR more with a particular trigger than someone else.

The Main 6 Types Of ASMR

6. The Main 6 Types Of ASMR

Something that many people are unaware of, is that there are six main types of ASMR. They have been defined below.

Each person who is sensitive to ASMR is likely to have their own preferences in terms of how they like to be presented with certain stimuli.

Different types of ASMR are preferred by different people, based on their neural connections and any existing experience with ASMR. Here are six of the main types of ASMR, and how each of them vary.


The most common form of ASMR, which most people may have already experienced, is sound.

This can be anything from gentle whispering, crinkling, and typing on a keyboard, to scratching with long fingernails, tapping, or blowing.

Some people prefer harsh speech sounds including the letters “S” and “P”, while others enjoy ambient sounds such as turning pages in a book, or writing with a pencil.

Think about a time when you have heard a certain sound that relaxed you, or that gave you chills in the back of your head.


Seeing patterns moving and shining bright light toward the eyes can create a similar response in the brain as sound ASMR.

The visual element of ASMR videos can be seen through gentle hand movements, mixing paint, or slicing soft objects.

Being able to provide a visual and sound ASMR is something that many content creators aim for, because this can make their videos more immersive and engaging.

The sound is usually a direct result from the visuals, such as slicing sounds.

Visual elements tend to accompany sound, because most content creators within ASMR make their own videos that provide an immersive experience.


Another popular form of ASMR is role-play, which involves prolonged eye contact with the camera and speaking as if the content creator is interacting with a close friend in some cases.

There is a sense of intimacy that is created with this approach, and it can make many viewers feel cared for.

Some ASMR content creators will also accompany this interaction with words of affirmation, reassurance, and gently petting the camera.

For those that live relatively isolated lives, this form of ASMR can be highly comforting. Whether you appreciate words of reassurance, the acts that are done such as visiting the dentist, or hearing someone’s voice.


For some, listening to or watching someone chew on certain foods or even gum can be highly soothing.

This can be accompanied by the visual element of someone chewing or slurping on something. However, this isn’t always the most popular form of ASMR for everybody.


Another form of ASMR that can be satisfying to watch or experience is crushing certain objects. This could be soft materials such as sand or slime, or something hard like a bar of soap.

Again, the sound as well as the visuals of this trigger can provide a highly immersive ASMR experience.


Physical touch and certain fabrics can also be used to create an ASMR experience. This is harder for content creators to do, which is why it cannot be found online.

However, you can create this experience yourself, by humming through your nose, gently running our fingers or a soft fabric over your arm, or by getting somebody to draw shapes onto your back with their finger.

Other Benefits Of ASMR

Anxiety Relief

Although the research is currently limited, there have been some suggestions that ASMR can help people who are suffering from anxiety.

Thanks to the enormous popularity of these videos, ASMR is great for a range of individuals.

The increase in serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins throughout the body when someone experiences the ASMR response is great for anxiety.

This is because it allows viewers to feel less socially isolated, and it can provide plenty of reassurance to those that need it most. Many content creators use words of affirmation in their videos to comfort viewers.

Depression Relief

Depression can also be highly limiting when it comes to finding the motivation and drive to get things done.

ASMR videos can provide a great deal of comfort and, in some cases, the endorphin boost that can help you to do some laundry, or make your bed on days when that is particularly difficult.

PTSD Relief

Some people can even use ASMR videos as a form of exposure therapy. For example, if someone struggles to leave their home and head to the salon for a routine haircut, there are ASMR videos that act out this scenario.

Likewise, doctor’s office visits, dentist checkups, and more.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make everyday tasks highly challenging. This is because there are a range of stimuli that can cause the onset of PTSD.

If you are struggling with this, and you want to find a little relief, then it could be worth searching for ASMR videos that appeal to you.


ASMR has been known to increase mindfulness. Again, the words of affirmation and comfort that is provided by many content creators is great for mindfulness.

ASMR can be used to change your perspective within society, and allow you to challenge certain beliefs about yourself.

Many people also find ASMR videos or content to be a valuable tool for meditation, or even when they need to take a little break during the day.

Differences In Audio Output

7. Differences In Audio Output

Because ASMR focuses primarily on the auditory element with additional visuals such as lights or hand movements, the different audio outputs should be considered.

This is so that you can completely immerse yourself in the ASMR experience, and make the most out of the content when needed.

Consider the following differences in audio output when you want to explore your options for ASMR.

Although the way in which a sound or video has been recorded is usually difficult to tell in everyday scenarios, ASMR is far more sensitive than other sounds.

Because of this, the way in which it has been recorded can play a more significant role in the quality of the content.

Stereo Audio

Stereo audio is categorized as anything with two channels rather than a single one. ASMR content creators tend to use this to create unique sounds that are being delivered to each ear.

Because of this, headphones are highly recommended when listening to any form of stereo audio.

However, this is especially true when it comes to ASMR videos and other content, because it can provide a deeper sense of relaxation or tingly feeling.

Binaural Audio

Binaural audio is very similar to the type of sound we would hear in the real world.

Consider the different types of audio input which are used by ASMR creators, each has unique qualities and types of sound that can be achieved.

The different forms of binaural audio can include placing a microphone on either side of a dummy head. By recording in this way, the sounds can be more realistic.

Many ASMR enthusiasts look for content that is recorded like this so that they can feel completely immersed.

Spatial Audio

Another technique that can create sounds that sound like those in real life is spatial audio.

As well as the relative location of the microphones being similar to the viewers’ or listeners’ ears, ASMR recorded with spatial audio considers the direction that the sound comes from.

This can be a great way of making sounds seem more genuine and real, because ASMR content creators are able to make it feel like they are talking from behind you, in front of you, or to your side in this way.

3D Audio

This is frequently known as binaural audio, because most professional grade binaural mics offer three-dimensional sound.

Many ASMR creators prefer this method of recording, because they do not need to use several microphones at the same time.

By using a 3D audio method, ASMR creators do not need to adjust which direction the microphone is facing whenever they move, or want to change the amount of sound which is received.

As a result, most ASMR videos or soundscapes made using this method can be of a much higher quality than other audio methods.

What Is The Best Way To Enjoy ASMR Videos?

8. What Is The Best Way To Enjoy ASMR Videos

There are many ways in which people prefer to listen to and experience ASMR videos. However, different methods can significantly alter the quality of the sound which is experienced.

Because of this, many ASMR content creators recommend listening to their videos and content with high quality headphones.

There are also a range of different options for the kind of listening conditions. For example, some content is best appreciated while you are getting ready for bed, while others can encourage you to prepare for the day.


Most ASMR content is not intended to be played out loud from speakers or through a phone speaker.

This is because it can compromise the quality of the experience, and limit the quieter sounds that are heard. Not only that, but it is far less likely that you will experience the ASMR tingles when you are playing the content out loud.

Using the right headphones is widely regarded as the most important factor when it comes to appreciating ASMR content. High quality headphones allow you to appreciate subtle sounds such as scratching or rustling latex gloves.

Consider sound cancelling headphones in order to completely immerse yourself in the ASMR world.

In addition to content creators finding a high quality sound source, it is highly recommended that you consider some great headphones that cover your ears and are sensitive to small changes in the sound or video that you are listening to.

Make sure you are not missing any small details of a video by using good headphones whenever possible.

Quiet Space

Another key factor to consider when you are preparing for ASMR is that you have a quiet space.

Removing all potentially distracting sounds from the environment, like a fan or TV, can also lead to a more immersive ASMR experience.

As a general rule, the fewer distractions that are present, the better.

This is because you should be able to focus on the overlapping sounds and completely immerse yourself in the video, or sound which encourages the ASMR response in your brain and body.

It is less likely that you will experience the ASMR response such as the tingling sensation if you are struggling to completely immerse yourself in the content.

This is because most of the ASMR content has been made to create the response and provide the range of benefits to viewers or listeners who give their full attention.

Because of this, listeners who are surrounded by distracting sounds or noises are less likely to fully benefit from ASMR content.

If you are wondering why you cannot feel the tingly sensation, then it could be due to background noise affecting the sound quality and distracting your mind.

This can occur even if you are unaware of it, so it is worth finding a quiet place where you can listen to ASMR content for the full benefits.

Before Bed

For many, ASMR content is a great way to unwind before bed. This can be ideal if you frequently suffer with insomnia, or if you find yourself taking a long time to turn your mind off.

If you find yourself struggling to sleep, then you could listen to some ASMR soundscapes as a distraction that can quiet the noise in your brain until you fall asleep for the night.

ASMR can be a great way of getting a peaceful sleep and preparing you for the following day by being well rested and energized.

This is because of how easy it is to fall asleep listening to a range of ASMR videos or sounds for many.

In addition to this, there is some evidence that listening to ASMR content can increase the brain’s production of dopamine and oxytocin before bed.

These neurotransmitters are known for encouraging deeper relaxation and an overall sense of calm. In turn, this can result in a better nights’ sleep.

ASMR Found In Nature

9. ASMR Found In Nature

You don’t always have to turn to the internet to experience ASMR for yourself. There are a range of different sources of this sensation that can be found in nature.

Here are some of the most common examples that are worth appreciating for yourself.

There is a significant amount of evidence that nature in general can help with healing in the mind and body.

Whether that involves the fresh air, the sounds, or simply the change of scenery, being in nature is a great way to improve your mental health.


Rain sounds are some of the most common ASMR experiences enjoyed by many. This is because it can act like white noise and settle busy minds in order to fall asleep peacefully.

For some, rain hitting a window on a mild night helps them get to sleep much faster, while others prefer the sound of thunder or heavy rainfall.

You can access these sounds in long playlists, or wait for a rainy night and leave your window slightly open, so you can hear it without letting the rain inside.

It is believed that the predictable pattern of rain is comforting, which is why many are able to fall asleep to this sound.

There have also been studies which have shown that the brain subconsciously produces alpha waves when listening to rain sounds.

These are very similar to the ones produced when we are sleeping, which suggests that the brain enters a relaxed state to the sound of rain.

Ocean Waves

Another popular sound which many people find soothing is the sound of ocean waves. Whether that is the sound of waves hitting a cliffside, or the sound of the ocean moving naturally with the tides.

There is a significant amount of evidence that explores the benefits of being close to the ocean on human health.

However, you can fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves for a much more peaceful state of mind.

This can allow you to drift off much easier, and focus on the movement of the tides rather than the specific things that are stressing you out that day.

Maybe the brain subconsciously associates the peace that comes from being near a beach or the ocean with the sound of waves.

This could be why so many people enjoy listening to this sound when they are trying to meditate, or fall asleep.

Crunching Leaves

For those that love the cool air of fall, it is not uncommon to enjoy the satisfying sound of leaves crunching under your feet. It is believed that the feeling of closeness to nature is what promotes a relaxing feeling overall.

Being surrounded by the natural world is highly beneficial for our wellbeing, and it can provide a valuable change of perspective. However, it could be the satisfaction of the dry leaves crunching that appeals to others.

There are plenty of soundscapes available to explore online, which could be worth downloading before you head to bed for the night. These include crunching dry leaves and woodland sounds in general.

Bird Sounds

Woodland sounds in general have been credited for promoting relaxation and improving wellbeing on the whole.

This could be the grounding powers that the natural world provides, or the healing which is encouraged through plenty of fresh air and a change of scenery in general.

Hearing birds singing can be incredibly comforting for many, because we have evolved to find the sound relaxing.

This is because birds will sing when they know they are safe, so we subconsciously make that association for ourselves, even now.

Birdsong can allow many to fall asleep and relax, or even get ready for the day. This is because birds like singing when the sun comes up.

Because of the slightly different interpretations of birdsong, you could carry out a little experiment to see how you feel after listening to birdsong for ten minutes before bed. You may feel more alert than relaxed.

In this case, you should listen to bird sounds to wake up and get yourself ready for the day instead.

Integrating different sounds from nature into your routine can allow you to focus on grounding yourself and even getting your mind ready to work or think of the bigger picture.


10. Summary

ASMR can be difficult to explain, because it is a relatively complex subject. There are many ways that it can be experienced, and it is a highly personal sensation.

Because of this, it could be worth thinking about how a particular sound makes you feel, and whether you are able to find an isolated sample online.

ASMR has gained a cult following during recent years, and the feeling of deep relaxation allows individuals to process certain emotions and begin healing in some cases.

Likewise, it can be beneficial for people with mental health conditions such as PTSD or depression.

Everybody’s brain works slightly differently, which is why ASMR does not have the same response for everyone who listens.

The tingly response in the back of the neck which travels to the arms is very specific, and it can be hard to find something that induces this sensation.

Consider the different triggers and the forms of ASMR to see if you are more sensitive to this kind of stimulus. They are focused around the different senses, and it can be incredibly calming to experience for the first time.


  • Nature Sound Retreat

    We're the group of holistic healers with a passion for sound therapy, meditation, and the benefits that music and noise can offer our bodies and minds. With over 10 years of experience teaching others about inner peace and how to achieve it with ease, we hope to share that knowledge on Nature Sound Therapy for you to enjoy for yourself.

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