APP CULTURE

What is ASMR anyway?

These apps have the sound answer.

The patter of water droplets hitting the ground; the crisp crushing of a metallic can; the squeaks of air being blown into a balloon. Familiar sounds, sure. But do any of them help you to relax? If they do, then you’ve experienced ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).

ASMR. It’s everywhere lately. On TV, on our devices and articles on it feature in various publications. There are even people who create ASMR content professionally on social media. The App Store is now home to an array of ASMR apps. But what has earned it so much attention?

ASMR is a phenomenon where visual, aural or tactile neural impulses generate a sensation of psychological wellbeing or even pleasure. The phrase was first coined in 2010 by an online health information-sharing community in the US. Community members had been discussing the oddly pleasurable sounds of rain, turning the pages of a book and similar experiences when they gave it the name ASMR.

Somewhere, Rain Sound ASMR plays sounds that feel utterly soothing.

To begin with, ASMR was limited to the sounds of clicking keyboards, scissors and other simple everyday things. Now, it has evolved to feature ambient sounds from nature, the bustle of cityscapes and even explores more obscure sounds like the combing of hair. Both Somewhere and TaoMix 2: Sleep Sounds & Focus let you choose from a diverse collection of sounds and even edit them to your liking.

TaoMix 2 will carry you away to a riverbed on a damp, drizzly autumn morning.

    Somewhere - Rain Sound ASMR

    Relaxing white noise for sleep

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    TaoMix 2: Sleep Sounds & Focus

    Calm Meditation & White Noise

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Sleep Orbit: Relaxing 3D Sound features over 100 sounds across 17 categories. The app’s developer, Scott Berger, shares that analysis shows ASMR became popularised because of social media.

“I think people have long been experiencing ASMR. They just didn’t know how to define it. Then, recently thanks to the popularity of social media, more people are becoming aware of it, actively sharing their experience with others.”

Sleep Orbit plays ASMR sounds from animals, the ocean, whispering and other interesting themes.

    Sleep Orbit: Relaxing 3D Sound

    White Noise Sounds, ASMR & Fan

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Recently, multi-sensory ASMR content has been getting lots of attention too. A video of a person at a desk scuffing paper for hours on end or the audible sounds of crunching from someone eating snacks. There are even ASMR artists who create this type of content professionally.

“Popular artists are finding an audience not only by creating outstanding content with great audio and video quality, but also through creating distinct characters that people relate to,” explains Gašper Kolenc, president of ASMR video platform Tingles - ASMR Sleep Sounds.

Tingles is one of the latest multimedia ASMR video platforms.

    Tingles - ASMR Sleep Sounds

    Stress & anxiety relief sounds

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The academia has also been looking into the benefits of ASMR, particularly with research into how it helps to calm the mind and induce sleep. There are ongoing testimonies that ASMR successfully improves focus and supports greater relaxation in sleep.

“I get a lot of response from users who are just happy that they can sleep better and feel more relaxed. It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve made somebody else’s life better,” says Berger.

Kolenc also shared the example of a Puerto Rican who had undergone challenges due to the impact of a storm. “I was told ‘the wind and rain had virtually disconnected all mobile signals in the region, and that’s a difficult situation to find peace of mind in. Repeatedly watching a video from an ASMR artist’s video that she had downloaded prior to the storm was the only reason she could weather the whole event.’ When I read that, I was so happy.”

ASMR is transcending how we interact with the sounds that surround us and, in the process, bringing us to a relaxed state of mind when we need it most.