How ASMR Helped My Quarantine-Related Insomnia


It’s 2:38 a.m. and the orange light from the power station an acre from my childhood bedroom is glowing ominously, like Gatsby’s green light. It reminds me of all the things I can’t do right now.

Like others, I have suffered from insomnia lately. I lay awake at night, my sleep schedule completely screwed up, unable to get rid of certain images: the Numbers ticking off a growing death toll on my computer, the group of unmasked 12 year olds in their 20s drinking beers at the beach near my house like it’s just an ordinary Tuesday, the compassionate but gloomy cover page of Sunday New York Timesa funeral dirge in the Georgia police.

Then there are the physical symptoms of insomnia: the body aches, the headaches, the shivering cold that sets in when your body falls asleep but your mind doesn’t perform. These are the effects of insomnia. But when you’re lying awake, restless and paranoid, they can look a lot like the symptoms of coronavirus.

You do not have COVID-19. That’s what I tell myself at 3 a.m., as I kick my duvet under one leg and mentally chart my entire week, in which I’ve done nothing but sit at home on my computer. or walk down a long deserted street.

At this point, there are two things I can do. I can worry myself to a stupor and pass out, waking up to the scratching sensation of the bare mattress after I take off the sheet.

Or, I can go to YouTube and watch ASMR.

[Pickle company turns into delivery service amid coronavirus outbreak]

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. In other words, it’s a tingling sensation in the back of the neck that comes from low-frequency noise, like a quiet whisper or rain on a window. Or in my case, bedazzled acrylic nails tapping on a tube of pink lipstick.

ASMR is a nervous pleasure response. It sounds a bit crude – but essentially it’s like a little massage for your brain that can have the added benefit of putting you to sleep.

And since the beginning of the quarantine, I watched ASMR before bed almost every night to fall asleep.

When ASMR first became popular, I ridiculed him as strange and vaguely perverted. The idea of ​​strangers whispering in my ear revolted me. Why were people eating pastel macaroons near a microphone, doing weird role-playing games that assumed I, the viewer, wanted a haircut?

Then, a few years ago, I saw an ASMR video titled “1300 AD ASMR ~ A Nun Takes Care of You in Bed {You Have the Plague}and I was so tickled by the weird title that I clicked on it. A woman called Angelica, dressed in a habit, speaks softly to you, trying to rid you of the plague with a variety of paraphernalia, including a pair of rosaries and a plastic water bottle with the label removed. At one point, Angelica asks (and remember: you have the plague, and it’s the 1300s) if you’ve ever tried Accutane.

Something about this video changed my opinion of ASMR. It was strange, of course, but somehow I could fall behind. Something about the blatant anachronisms struck me as deeply hilarious. I forwarded the video to a friend and didn’t think about it.

Today, the relevance of being treated for a deadly scourge does not escape me.

[I held a quarantine-friendly music festival in my backyard]

I didn’t really think about ASMR again until last summer when I was sublet in Washington, DC with a friend. I was anxious, partly because of the weather and my life in DC, but mostly because I decided to relaunch my acting career, despite the fact that I was almost sober and had no real life experience for my comic material. Stressed, dampened, I turned to the only non-medical relief I had yet overlooked for my anxiety: ASMR.

This time it gets stuck. I started finding my favorite people – ASMRtists, as they call themselves. My roommate and I watched the videos together in the giant bed we shared in a single-person studio. We once ventured to Trader Joe’s to pick up a jar of honeycomb, curious about the taste after looking at several women videos eating the treat next to a microphone. (Consensus: Waxier than expected.)

Now, ASMR is more than a mildly fun hobby. It’s a real relief for my insomnia, a way to forget my ever-present fear. A few days ago I saw a notification for a new video from my favorite ASMRtist, Josie Bwho often films herself applying soft holographic makeup in the gentle breeze of her garden or typing on her desk with a new set of pink acrylic nails.

I cannot convey the gratitude I feel towards her and all the strangers who are helping a collective mass of anxiety sufferers fall asleep, in a time when sleep can feel abnormal and often impossible. The comments of several Jocie videos corroborate my feelings:

my sleep pattern has been so upset lately that i realized the only way to fall asleep was to watch jocie’s videos. just looking at his face makes me feel at peace.

“She always made me feel calm in this pandemic”

“After watching this video, I fell into a deep sleep”

And with that, me too.


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