ASMR for sleep: Here’s how it works

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Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos have taken the internet by storm. Chances are, you’ve seen at least one of the strangely calming YouTube videos of someone flipping book pages, cutting kinetic sand, or even whispering gently into the microphone.

As of this year, ASMR videos have collectively racked up trillions of views on YouTube. So-called ASMR artists design their videos and playlists to evoke a relaxing, tingly sensation that viewers describe as running from their scalps down their spines.


Fans of ASMR claim listening to these sounds quells anxiety and helps them sleep better. But what does science say? Let’s define ASMR, then unpack whether it can help with sleep.

What is ASMR?

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. The word is used to describe the experience of a pleasant tingling sensation (usually on the scalp) in response to gentle, consistent movements or sounds.


Research on ASMR is slim, but we know it isn’t experienced by everyone. It’s still unclear how many people have this physical response to specific audio-visual cues. For those who do, listening to ASMR sounds at night might help induce a calming sensation that promotes sleep.

What triggers ASMR?

Research on ASMR is still ongoing, but the popularity of specific videos suggests that common triggers include whispering, soft crinkling, taping, page-turning, and other gentle, slow movements.


According to a 2017 questionnaire filled out by 130 people who experience ASMR, there are several common characteristics of a compelling ASMR video or soundtrack:

  • lower-pitched, complex sounds
  • slow-paced movements
  • close-up or detail-focused visuals

How does ASMR work?

ASMR still isn’t fully understood, but we know it’s more than a feeling. There’s both scientific and anecdotal evidence that ASMR triggers actual physical responses. People who experience ASMR feel a tingling sensation, but their heart rates also slow and their skin conductance, a sign of heightened emotion and attention, increases.

ASMR for sleep: Is it really effective?

“Sounds that are calming, soft, and consistent are more likely to induce restful sleep,” says Shelby Harris, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis. “However, ASMR as a sleep aid does not have a solid evidence base behind it.”


While there’s not much clinical evidence that ASMR can help sleep, there are anecdotal reports suggesting ASMR can help some people fall asleep more easily or quickly. Harris says that might be because ASMR sounds are relaxing, and calming the mind can improve sleep quality.


“If listening to ASMR videos before bed helps someone to relax, unwind, and fall asleep faster, then that’s great,” she says. “That being said, ASMR is not necessarily an evidence-based treatment for chronic insomnia. If you find that what you’ve been doing routinely isn’t helping, talk with a sleep doctor.”

How do you use ASMR for sleep?

To use ASMR as a sleep aid, Harris suggests opting for a soundtrack over a video. “Blue light exposure from cell phones, computers, tablets, and TVs can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep and worsen your sleep quality,” she says.


You can still use ASMR YouTube videos for sleep by turning the screen away from your face or placing your phone face down on the nightstand after pressing “play.”


Even Saatva has an ASMR video to help you fall asleep by listening to the gentle sound of ocean waves. Whatever ASMR video you choose, remember to focus on the sounds rather than the screen as you try to calm your mind and prepare for sleep.


What does ASMR stand for? 

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It refers to a relaxing, tingling sensation that spreads from the scalp down the spine.

Does ASMR cause insomnia? 

ASMR is more likely to cause relaxation than insomnia. However, Harris says playing ASMR sounds that are loud or inconsistent could disrupt your sleep.


“If you find that listening to ASMR is worsening your sleep quality or causing you to wake up more tired after a few days, then it’s probably doing more harm than good,” she explains.

Is sleeping with ASMR good? 

There’s no clinical evidence that ASMR is an effective sleep aid. However, ASMR sounds are soft and repetitive, which Harris says is likely to promote restful sleep.

What is the best ASMR for sleep? 

No studies prove that one type of ASMR is better than another for sleep. If you want to listen to ASMR as you fall asleep, Harris recommends playing a soundtrack of soft, consistent sounds at a low volume.


Could listening to a podcast help you sleep better? Here are the best podcasts to get you ready for bed.


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Medicinal mushrooms could help you sleep better. Here’s how


Medicinal mushrooms are all the rage right now and for good reason, as they’re tied to a whole host of health benefits. Used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, these fungi have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years in the United States and are even popping up in the form of trendy coffees and lattes.


Health boosts from medicinal mushrooms, also sometimes called functional mushrooms, include reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory and cognition, and supporting the immune system.


There’s also some evidence that medicinal mushrooms can help you get a better night’s sleep. Here, we break down the benefits of medicinal mushrooms and how you can incorporate them into your routine.


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Reishi is a type of medicinal mushroom that has been shown to ease stress and anxiety and promote sleep. The secret lies in its calming properties. Reishi mushrooms contain the compound triterpene, which is often described as anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial.


While traditional Chinese medicine has used reishi mushrooms to treat general restlessness and insomnia for centuries, there is some recent scientific evidence that lends more weight to these claims.


A study in rats found supplementation of reishi mushrooms was linked with a decrease in sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and an increase in total sleep time.


Other research suggests reishi mushrooms may also have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, promote wound healing and protect the skin from the effects of aging.


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Other types of mushrooms also come with a host of health benefits. Lion’s mane, for example, has been shown to improve cognition and memory, as well as ease depression and anxiety.


If you’re looking for an energy boost, particularly for your workouts, cordyceps may be for you. Research studies have shown these fungi help boost aerobic exercise performance and enhance physical stamina.


Chaga mushrooms, meanwhile, are known for their antioxidant properties. These mushrooms may help fight inflammation, lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and support the immune system.


Marina Bagrova / iStock


You may be wondering exactly how you can include medicinal mushrooms in your routine to reap the sleep and health benefits. The first thing to know is that these mushrooms aren’t meant to be eaten raw or whole. Rather, they can be taken in supplemental form. (Always speak to your doctor first before adding a new supplement to your routine.)



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Perhaps the most popular way to get your fix of functional mushrooms is to add the supplement to your tea or coffee, but mushroom extracts can be mixed into any food, drink or smoothie recipe. However, you’ll want to pay close attention to the labels on the product packaging.


“First and foremost, as with all functional mushrooms, consumers will want to scrutinize the products they purchase while understanding the difference between powders and extracts,” explains Jill Portman, co-founder of Good Pharma.




Products that use ground mushroom powder, in lieu of an extract, provide the least health benefits, she says. Portman suggests looking for highly concentrated extracts when choosing medicinal mushroom products.


Good Pharma, for instance, offers easy-to-use pour-over infuser bags containing highly concentrated blends of functional mushrooms woven into their coffee and tea.


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The company also uses a traditional Chinese medicinal herb called Suan zao ren in their tea that has sleep and relaxation benefits.


“Chinese medical texts teach us that suan zao ren has the effect of nourishing blood and calming nerves, regulating qi, and benefiting the heart and liver,” says Ann Wang, doctor of Chinese medicine, licensed acupuncturist, and member of Good Pharma’s advisory board. “The suan zao ren formula was recorded in the first herbal prescription for insomnia thousands of years ago and is still used today.”


Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.


To get more info on sleep-promoting ingredients, check out our article on the best herbs for sleep



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