Whispered sounds, a swish of fingers on a surface, a brush on the hair, what do these sounds have in common? According to scientists, they are able to induce a feeling of relaxation and calm and to promote sleep more than classical music. This emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience thanks to an international collaboration between Japanese, British and American scholars (Sakurai et al, Front Behav Neurosci, 2021).
ASMR, sounds that make you relax
The acronym says little, ASMR, and the extended term even less, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. But in fact the process behind this acronym is truly fascinating and promising for our well-being. In fact, it is believed that listening to some sounds, as mentioned at the beginning, whispers or touches on a surface, can induce a feeling of relaxation that starts with a tingling from the top of the head and then spreads throughout the body. However, until now, no agreement had been reached on the real effectiveness of ASMR in inducing relaxation and counteracting insomnia. The reason is that not everyone feels the sensation of tingling. To fully understand the mechanism of action of the ASMR and whether this can occur even in the absence of physical sensations such as tingling, the researchers developed the study we are talking about today.
Here are the stress-relieving sounds, the study
Researchers recruited 30 young adults. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group listened to classical music, which is a type of music that has already been studied by science and which has shown its ability to induce relaxation. The second group listened to sounds such as whispers and finger movements on surfaces, sounds considered capable of inducing ASMR. During the experiment, the study participants were monitored to understand if music and sounds were able to activate particular brain areas. Finally, at the end of the experiment, the volunteers filled out a questionnaire indicating their subjective feelings. What emerged was that none of the volunteers experienced tingling. However, even in the absence of this physical sensation, the study showed that ASMR sounds bring important benefits. In fact, both ASMR sounds and classical music activated areas of the brain connected with sleep and relaxation. But ASMR sounds were able to activate more brain areas than classical music. In particular, it is worth noting that the ASMR sounds activated the prefrontal medial cortex, which is the basis of social activity. This is believed to have happened since ASMR sounds are related to everyday activities. Well, the prefrontal medial cortex also regulates the release of neurohormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, which help to cope with stress and bring feelings of comfort and relaxation. Therefore, ASMR sounds were more effective than classical music at promoting relaxation and reducing stress, plus, ASMR sounds were beneficial for all study participants, even in the absence of the tingling sensation.
Not only how we live and what we eat or drink, also what we hear can help us to reach a state of greater well-being and relaxation, to counteract stress more effectively and to sleep better. If you wish, in the relax section of the app you can find the new ASMR sounds, for a complete relaxation.