Unfortunately, there isn’t much. While the term was coined in 2010, researchers are just beginning to study ASMR. Most of the information we have about ASMR is anecdotal, and not everyone experiences ASMR. However, the current research suggests that your ability to experience ASMR may have something to do with wiring in your brain.
One of the first peer-reviewed studies on ASMR, published in 2015, noted an overlap between ASMR and synesthesia, a neurological condition where multiple senses get stimulated at the same time, and in a way that’s atypical for most people. For example, a person with synesthesia may say they “hear color” or “taste sounds.” In the general population, only 2 to 4 percent of people have synesthesia, but 6 percent of people with ASMR also have synesthesia.
In a later study, researchers performed MRI scans on participants to see if this tendency to “blend” sensory experiences may originate in the brain. When comparing individuals who experience ASMR against controls, the researchers found that those with ASMR had increased connectivity in certain regions of their brain, and reduced connectivity in others — specifically between the frontal lobes and sensory regions in the brain. This reduced connectivity may make it easier for sensory-emotional associations to occur when a person encounters an ASMR trigger.
Individuals with ASMR also score significantly higher on some personality traits like Openness-to-Experience. Higher Openness-to-Experience scores correlate with greater sensitivity to sensory experiences.
How Can ASMR Help Sleep?
While people use ASMR to relax, most people use it specifically to help them fall asleep. Multiple studies have shown that when people with ASMR watch a video, it helps them relax, relieves their stress, and makes it easier for them to fall asleep. The positive impacts of ASMR may aid sleep in several ways.
Over half of people with insomnia live with chronic pain. Even temporary pain makes it challenging for the body to relax enough to fall asleep. Studies show that when people with ASMR watch videos, they experience pain relief that lasts for several hours.
Individuals with ASMR also experience a feeling of wellbeing after watching videos. Like the pain relief, these improvements in mood last for several hours afterward — even if the tingling sensations do not occur.
These improvements in mood tend to be more pronounced among individuals with moderate to severe depression. Individuals with ASMR tend to score higher on the neuroticism personality trait, which can be associated with depression and lower emotional stability.
However, this mood-lifting effect only occurs among individuals capable of experiencing ASMR. ASMR videos do not have the same uplifting effect on those who do not engage in ASMR.
Fortunately, watching an ASMR video can significantly lower the heart rate of people who experience ASMR. This reduction in heart rate may mimic the relaxation that naturally occurs as one falls asleep, while also lowering one’s stress levels.