Is ASMR An Effective Sleep Disorder Cure?

Written by: Donald Eide

Wouldn't it be great to just nod off at a click of the fingers? Well, you wouldn't be alone: 40 million American’s suffer the same problem; insomnia being the most common case. And when you reach the age of 65, there’s a 50% chance you’ll have some form of sleep disorder.

It’s important to note ASMR would be highly unlikely to cure a multitude of sleep disorders. There are more than 70 recognized sleep disturbances after all. What it really helps with are issues involving a lack of sleep: insomnia and shift work sleep disorder (because you work night shifts).  The other two types of sleep disruptions are disrupted sleep disorder, the prime example being OSA: obstructive sleep apnea, and excessive sleep being the other, where you sleep too much: narcolepsy being an example where you really can sleep at will.

P.S. we also have a post on the overall health benefits of ASMR. Sleep, although incredibly important, is only part of the picture! We have to take a holistic approach to health.

A state of relaxation
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, which is the result of psychological and physiological responses in your body to certain stimuli. It can be both visual and audio. Personally, I prefer to watch the videos as I think the cosplay/role play is a highly immersive experience, which relaxes me a lot. But others may prefer to slip on some noise-canceling headphones and chill out in bed.
Figure A - beats per minute (bpm) curvature whilst sleeping
Sounds of brushing hair, flipping magazine pages, finger tapping on desks can induce goosebumps. Heck, I even watched a video of an ASMR therapist shaving soap and found it to be the most pleasurable thing ever! Whatever it may be, you’ll find the content promotes calmness and a great relaxation state before bedtime, lowering the heart rate.

Stress and anxiety disappear, as your body is enveloped in a warm tingling sensation. Moreover, the four prime triggers are whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds, and slow movements. This is why the video content can be very effective as all the attention is on you, and its human beings natural tendency to kinda like that…
Whether that is a video experience for getting your haircut, a massage or storytelling, you feel that you are the focus of attention. Coupled with the gentle, soft-spoken voices means you can’t help but enter a transcend state of comfort and wellbeing. It's the perfect recipe for sleep.

Will it work for me?
ASMR is highly preferential. Even for the people that get to experience it, it may only be certain triggers, sounds, visuals, and specific ASMR therapists that do it for them. Think of it like food – you get some people who will devour anything in sight, but others are a bit pickier. Some people lean towards a certain cuisine (Chinese, Indian, etc.) and that's perfectly fine. The same goes for ASMR. For example, my two personal favorites are WhisperAudios ASMR and Gibi ASMR. Both of these therapists are females, so maybe it's the soft tones of a woman's voice that triggers the relaxation for me. There are plenty of popular male ASMR therapists out there who are great at what they do, but it just doesn't work for me.

Also, I recommend at nighttime you ditch the phone screen and watch the ASMR content on your TV. Especially from a distance, the light isn’t as intense, and a phone’s light could counteract the effects of ASMR. Blue light will penetrate deep into the eye and cause hyper-arousal. Have you ever noticed if you’re on your phone at night, whilst in bed, that you can literally stay up all night?
Yeah, that pretty much explains everything.
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Figure B - the effects of blue light on your sleep
But if you’ve experienced the warm tingles of ASMR in everyday life, like an involuntary response, you’ll probably find it’ll work very well as a sleep aid. And the vast majority of ASMR experiencers would likely have encountered their first episode in childhood.

Consistent nighttime routine
ASMR is definitely effective at signaling to your body its time for bed. But you can’t get around the fact there’s a little more to it than that. We can think of this as a healthy evening ritual. Based on my research, here’s what I propose:
  • Don’t eat for at least 3 hours before you go to bed
  • Set the phone aside, quite looking at social media and playing video games 1 hour before bed. Television is fine but the best thing you could do is read a book with a nice bedside light on, and/or with some nice background music. OR immerse yourself in your favourite ASMR experiences!
  • Avoid caffeine for 7 hours before bed – coffee AND tea. So, if you go to bed at 11 pm, have your last cuppa at 4 pm. However, if you still need a warm brew, try herbal tea like chamomile and lemon tea. Just make sure it’s caffeine-free and remember that decaffeinated may mean all the caffeine is extracted, but it could also be the concentration has only been reduced, so read the label
  • Wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time, EVERYDAY. You’ll feel way better for it as your body isn’t sent into a ‘shocked’ state. Make it easy for the poor thing
  • Avoid napping during the day – you’ll really feel its time to hit the kip for your recommended 7-8 hours sleep (if you're an adult) when its time to do so. And you’d have really earned it. If you are getting less than 6 hours sleep/day, you’ll want to increase this in small increments each week by 15 minutes until you’re in the healthy 7-8 hours range
  • Meditation – you could couple this with ASMR, or substitute it if you found meditating wasn't your thing. Both have many similarities because they reduce your heart rate and promote a feeling of wellbeing. And they both have physiological and psychological benefits
  • If you don't already have them, some black-out curtains and a temperature controlled room (goldilocks environment 15.5-19)

Of course, you could find other methods that work for you. But the important point is you want that winding down time before your shuteye for 1-2 hours. Plus, make your bedroom ‘sleep-friendly’. What does this mean? Well, your bedroom should be separate from the rooms where you take phone calls, work at the computer or watch TV, etc.

What you’re doing here is creating the perfect environment for you to become sleepy. Your biological circadian rhythm (body clock) will signal to you that you’re tired instead of alert. It will signal to the part of your brain that secretes sleep hormones, such as melatonin, which will rise in the evening and remain elevated whilst you’re asleep.

The dreaded phone screen
This deserves a special mention again. I think the infographic below explains the effects of blue light perfectly. So basically, if you want a surefire way of disrupting your sleep routine, stare deep into that laptop or phone screen for hours on end…
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Figure C - what smartphones do to your sleep
ASMR has a strong connection to mindfulness. If you’re already stressed from everyday life, then this will only compound the problem. You see, the University of Sheffield carried out a comprehensive study on ASMR effects, and they analyzed 475 people. All of them were ASMR experiencers, and 82% of them used it for sleep, with 80% saying it positively impacted their mood. This is the total opposite of depression and anxiety, which have many disruptive effects on sleep. ASMR, on the other hand, is the ultimate form of passive relaxation

Sleeping list
I’ve compiled a list of my top ASMR videos – we’ll call it the sleep playlist! You’ll notice that they’re all quite long: 45 minutes or above because they allow you to listen until you drift off. You can even listen to this popular playlist on Spotify: ASMR Sleep Sounds.

All the videos incorporate a variety of techniques to help you sleep – I’ve even included one where there is nobody speaking – just crisp noises. Again, because it's a personal thing and you may find listening to somebody talking quite distracting, but rest assure, they will ALL alleviate stress, which is amazing for your mental health and you’ll sleep better because of it. None of the videos have any sudden volume changes to surprise you.

Now, ASMR is a very new technique that's only been catching momentum these past few years. There are very few peer-reviewed studies at the moment, but I think its simple to understand how ASMR reduces anxiety and stress. I experience the sensations myself, so I can honestly vouch for that. If you are in an induced state of wellbeing brought on by ASMR, you’re going to sleep better.

A simple, natural technique to solve a complex problem. Give it a try ☺

But please note – this article and ASMR isn’t intended to replace your medication or professional advice. If you experience bouts of depression and are struggling with mental health, please seek out your doctor.  

Donald Eide is an e-commerce business owner of Honey Gusto, specializing in medical devices and healthcare products. He enjoys providing informative, easy-to-understand articles over on his blog.