What Is ASMR And Can It Really Give You A ‘Braingasm’?

Your ultimate guide to the world’s favourite relaxation fetish.

What Is ASMR And Can It Really Give You A ‘Braingasm’?

by Hannah Slapper |

The near constant influx of emails. Endless notifications. Facebook birthday reminders. That weird fear/panic about all the shows you haven’t watched on Netflix. Food guilt. Social anxiety. Jesus, it’s no wonder we’re a generation of overly analytical nervous wrecks.

Scroll through any social news feed and you’ll see the same sort of trends - we’re all desperately trying to gain control, relax, find a bit of headspace, meditate and be mindful of the present. And one of the most popular and growing methods can be found on Youtube. It’s called ASMR. And it’s awesome.

OK so, what is ASMR?

ASMR stands for ‘Auto Sensory Meridian Response’ and basically, it’s a sensation of deep relaxation characterised by a tingling of the skin, and a feeling of euphoria and peace washing over the body and brain. The feeling is triggered by certain types visual and aural prompts. It has been described as the prickly feeling of sleepy happiness you might have experienced as a child, married with the pleasurable goosebumps of someone gently stroking your skin. It’s also been called a ‘braingasm’, btw. A BRAINGASM.

Who invented ASMR?

Technically a woman called Jennifer Allen, who coined the term in 2010, although a ASMR style movement was already growing on Youtube without a defining name. The community is, somewhat unusually, extremely supportive and humble. Practitioners (also known as ASMRtists) work together to provide relaxation and ‘tingles’ for their viewers through their video channels.

What are the ASMR videos about?

Honestly, it could be anything and everything, but there are certain tropes and themes that are more famous for initiating that very specific ASMR tingly feeling. Long videos showing repetitive motions and sounds are popular - we’re talking like 40 mins to an hour of someone sorting coloured wooden beads into piles. Also role-play videos of your favourite ASMRtists pretending to be a doctor or a beautician are pretty common. You’ll also usually get a soundtrack of whispering or soft-spoken commentary to lull you into feeling relaxed. Not all videos will float your boat - you kinda have to work out your triggers…

Right. So how do you work out your ASMR triggers?

You kinda have to just trawl through some of the famous ones and see if anything sets off the famous spine-sparkling ASMR ‘braingasm’. Some of the classic sound triggers include long nails tapping on different surfaces, scratching fabric, turning pages, whispering, pretend personal grooming (someone ‘giving you a head massage’) and Bob Ross. Lots and lots of Bob Ross.

Can anyone get that special ASMR feeling?


It’s easier for some than for others. For some people, just the *thought *of watching someone gently go through their makeup bag makes them shiver with anticipatory pleasure. For others, it takes more significant effort, going through some pretty niche vids and seeing if anything works.


If nothing is hitting that A-spot, some tips would be:

  • Try lots of different kinds of triggers - don’t double up - go broad until something piques your interest.

  • Use good quality headphones or earbuds. Because lots of ASMR videos use ‘binaural’ microphones (that mimic the spatial awareness of your own ears) you get a more realistic and sharp sound through headphones. Never listen on speakers.

  • Watch the videos alone, so you don’t feel self conscious, and at a time when you’re not likely to be disturbed. Just before you go to bed is the ideal time, as your mind is already naturally relaxing and unwinding, and you’re more prone to feel the feels.

  • If nothing is working just use an indian head massager. It’s kind of like that sensation x 100 so at least you’ll get an idea of it?

Can animals experience ASMR?

Some studies suggest that triggers commonly associated with ASMR can have a relaxing effect on animals. This video pretty much proves it, tbh. So, we’re going with...yes? Cos that’s cuter.

Are ASMR videos... dangerous?

A question that lots of people are asking, but the answer is...not really? It depends what you mean by ‘dangerous’ or ‘bad for you’. The videos are intimate and extremely sensual so some communities overcoming porn addiction have been known to recommend avoiding ASMR (as it could potentially be a gateway back into bad habits) but for most people it’ll just be relaxing. Of course, the ASMRtists in the videos vary wildly, so the subject matter can change from person to person. If you find yourselves feeling uncomfortable though there’s plenty more fish in the sea, just find someone else who doesn’t mention subjects that make you feel uncomfortable.

Also, from your writer’s humble experience, the most real and present danger is sleeping so deeply that you don’t hear your alarm.

Can ASMR help with anxiety? Can it help you sleep?

In a lot of ways ASMR is like mindfulness. It takes your mind out of time zones that you can’t control so that, instead of worrying about the future or regretting the past, you’re in the present, watching someone tap on an iPhone, and emptying your mind of thought.

It’s very calming even if you don’t get the tingle braingasm bit, and there has been anecdotal evidence of people finding it to be a useful tool calming panic attacks or soothing insomnia.

Can ASMR turn you on?

Aha. Here’s a thing. Lots of people think that ASMR is a sexual pursuit. Cards on the table - yeah there’s something pretty titillating about someone whispering gently in your ear (via headphones) and giving you a head massage. And calling the sensation a ‘braingasm’ certainly doesn’t help the image. But most people in the community would attest to the fact that it’s not about sex. If you want it to be, you can easily find videos where people ramp things up to the next lev. But most of the stuff out there is as innocent as you like. And, tbh, the actual ASMR feeling is kind’ve like a non sexual version of an orgasm. Like all the feelings you get, except in your nethers.

TL:DR - Maybe. But it doesn’t have to.

Where do I start if I want to try ASMR?

There are a couple of classic videos that might give you an insight. Have a gander at a few Bob Ross clips and see if they make you feel awesome. The Water Whispers is an amazing channel by a lovely Dutch lady called Ilse, a bastion of the ASMR community with nearly 200,000 subscribers. One of her videos goes through 11 of the most common triggers, and is quite good for trying out lots of different ASMR techniques in one go. Or there’s Gentle Whispering - arguably the most popular ASMRtist on the planet. Her 3D sounds video has over 16 million views, although be prepared for some serious facial close ups.

That’s about it. Get your headphones on and start your journey into slumbersome tingle bliss.

**Liked this? You might also be interested in: **

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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