Home alone and fighting a million anxious thoughts after I turn off my bedroom lights at night, getting to sleep has often felt like a daunting chore.
Before I started medication and had the pleasure of falling right to sleep courtesy of Seroquel, I often felt no relief from my overactive mind. Nights would find me crying in my bed from sheer exhaustion.
But, as it usually tends to go for me, the wonders of the Internet came to my rescue.
Towards the end of my college career back in May, I discovered ASMR videos, an entirely uncharted part of the web that was introduced to me by my friend and former roommate. My friend, who suffered from anxiety and insomnia as well, told me the videos helped them to get to sleep at night. They were so soothing that they even liked to play them in the background while they cleaned the apartment.
So I tried it one night, tucked in my dorm bed alone, clutching my phone close to my face as I intently watched my first video. Almost immediately, I felt the tingles that my friend described to me, slowly spreading over my scalp and gently washing down my spine. I took a deep breath and reveled in Springbok’s (my favorite ASMR artist) voice as I settled in my warm bed. Before I knew it, before I had the chance to experience my first full ASMR video, I was miraculously asleep.
Before long, listening to ASMR videos before bed became a cherished ritual of mine. Listening to YouTube artists like albinwhisperland, Cosmic Tingles and Springbok, I felt as though I dropped right into my body and into a peaceful demeanor that I couldn’t experience using anything else. The tapping, crinkling and whispering of each video lulled me further into a sense of peace and security, saving me from sleepless nights before I finally procured a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
And it wasn’t just listening. ASMR videos can also be super calming to watch. Between the melodic movements of the artist’s hand gestures and certain activities that instantly soothe, like squishing slime or mixing wet ingredients, the videos’ visually hypnotizing nature often left me sleepy and tranquil as well.
For all intents and purposes, ASMR videos were my anxiety medicine for awhile, taken every night before bed (“taking” longer videos during particularly stressful nights). On many days, they were the only thing that could coach me through a panic attack. An ASMR meditation video always worked better for me than popping the Klonopin my first psychiatrist prescribed me. It was my depression medicine that kept me going, as I could only get my work done on some days with ASMR playing in the background as a comforting and motivating force. It acted as my greatest comfort on nights when I fought with my parents, when I didn’t feel safe. alb and Spring became my nurturing friends on days when I felt isolated or couldn’t bare sleeping in my bed without my fiancé (who was away at school during my bipolar treatment).
To this day, ASMR videos endure as a major coping skill for me on the few nights where Seroquel doesn’t feel like enough to get me to sleep. And even if I don’t listen to them every night anymore, it’s comforting to remember that it’s in my back pocket if ever I should need it again.
I feel so incredibly indebted to the many ASMR artists who have nursed me through the worst of times and even cured my insomnia with their undying devotion to their following. Because the longer I’ve watched these videos, the more I realize what a generous and emotionally laborious art ASMR is. I personally don’t feel like I have the energy for it, but I admire the dedication of folks to make videos specifically to comfort people in need while also tailoring to their specific needs and preferences (I’m referring to viewers requesting certain materials or role-plays).
I hope to see ASMR be incorporated into therapies one day, specifically those dealing with anxiety and PTSD. In the meantime, I hold artists like Springbok to the same level of respect and importance as all the other mental health workers I have in my life.