In 2012, Ilse Blansert of Toronto decided she would not pursue a career in animal care, which she had been studying in school. Instead, she chose to become a full-time Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response — ASMR — artist.
Now the 25-year-old records and posts videos of herself on her Youtube channel making soothing sounds by tapping, brushing and pouring different items. She does it all to lull people to sleep.
“It has to do with the combination of sounds and voices,” Blansert said. “It’s a calming, relaxing voice because if it’s too fast you don’t really have a chance to experience those tingles.”
It’s those tingles that have generated 16 million clicks for Blansert’s YouTube channel.
Emily Hansen of Houston, one of Blansert’s followers, said the videos helped put an end to her sleepless nights.
“I could not sleep and I was just thinking about so many different things going on in my life and I just wanted to relax,” Hansen said. “And I didn’t want to have a glass of wine. I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill. I didn’t want to meditate.”
When Hansen first saw an ASMR video she found it hard to keep her eyes open.
“It was one of the most euphoric sensations I’ve ever felt,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was but I was hooked. … My eyes get, you know, heavy. I, just my brain relaxes so much and I get so connected to it that I just fall asleep. I mean I just conk out.”
And that’s with no pills, no side effects, no danger of addiction.
“There are no true bad physical effects of this kind of activity on the body,” said Dr. Amer Khan, a sleep specialist with Sutter Neuroscience Institute near Sacramento.
Khan said that ASMR videos could be just as good if not better than a sleeping pill, but he had a warning.
“It’s not extremely unhealthy to do something like this but what it’s really doing is taking you away from the real issues that you’re dealing with, which is how to turn off your mind, how to feel relaxed at the end of the day,” he said.
While there is no current scientific research on ASMR, the practice is catching on in the medical community.
Yale University neurologist Steven Novella wrote on his blog: “I think it is entirely plausible, or at least this is no obstacle to acceptance of ASMR as real.”
He added that this is just another example of how our “brains are fantastically complex and weird.”
The millions of people who suffer from sleep difficulties like Hansen are now relying on the Internet’s answer to counting sheep.
“It’s reminded me how to relax,” Hansen said. “It brings me comfort that I can’t find in other things.”