3 posts tagged “sleep tips”

What’s ASMR? The phenomenon everyone’s whispering about

Posted 1 month ago by

Chills. Goosebumps. Tingles. “Autonomic sensory meridian response” or ASMR is described as a pleasurable wave of calm that comes to some people during exposure to gentle actions and/or sounds: think whispering, tapping fingernails or turning pages. These ordinary audio and visual triggers can inspire a deeply soothing effect on many people – making ASMR potentially appealing to people living with depression, anxiety, PTSD or even chronic pain.

“I find ASMR videos to always be extremely calming,” says one PatientsLikeMe member. “It’s basically the ‘tingles’ or a very chill feeling you get when you watch certain repeated motions or hear soft-spoken or whispered words… Give it a try, especially in moments of panic, anxiety, or agitation.”

Other PatientsLikeMe members have also talked about ASMR in the forums and in their treatment evaluations (join PatientsLikeMe or log in to see what they say).

With meditation, podcasts and soothing music as tested tools to inspire calm, it’s no secret that sound can bring on relaxation. But what exactly is ASMR and how can it help people living with chronic conditions?

The soothing art of ASMR

ASMR is a nonclinical term coined in 2010, and the trend has its origins online. Before it had its “official” acronym, the hard-to-describe experience and its growing presence online was mostly regarded as a quirky YouTube niche. Now, ASMR has become a full-fledged phenomenon with enough hype to place it at the center of a beer commercial that ran during the Super Bowl and a recent This American Life segment titled A Tribe Called Rest.

ASMR brings on what many people describe as a tingling at the crown of the head, which may continue down the spine and the rest of the body, in a wave of euphoria, followed by zen-like relaxation. Not everyone experiences ASMR in response to these stimuli, and there is no comprehensive data as to what percentage of the population does or does not experience it, but tens of millions of views of ASMR videos suggest that many people are indeed drawn to its effects.

Even before it had a name, ASMR had mass appeal. Bob Ross served as a proto-ASMR artist – people zoned out to the dulcet tones of the painter’s voice paired with the soft sights and sounds of his brushstrokes.

These days, many ASMR fans still turn to Bob Ross, as well as a number of other YouTube “ASMRtists” and channels that have emerged, such as Gentle Whispering and ASMR Darling.

The science behind the shivers

Not unlike the chills – or frisson – brought upon by a pleasurable or poignant piece of music, dopamine floods the brain’s reward system when the neurotransmitter (trigger) is activated. This, in addition to the building anticipation in the moments before the music’s crescendo, may create the same type of brain activity that occurs in response to the sights and sounds of ASMR videos.

Researchers are working to generate proof of the existence of ASMR as a physiological experience and not an imagined one. After watching an ASMR-trigger video, participants in a University of Sheffield research study who claimed to experience ASMR registered lowered heart rates than those who didn’t identify as experiencers of ASMR. In another study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers monitored brain activity during an ASMR video-watching session, with participants registering each instance of the signature tingling sensation. Their scans showed activity related to the reward (NAcc) and emotional arousal (dACC and Insula/IFG) centers of the brain.

A sense of calm

Columbia University sleep disorders specialist Dr. Carl W. Bazil suggests ASMR videos as a way to unwind. “People who have insomnia are in a hyper state of arousal,” he said in the New York Times. “Behavioral treatments – guided imagery, progressive relaxation, hypnosis, and meditation – are meant to try to trick your unconscious into doing what you want it to do. ASMR videos seem to be a variation on finding ways to shut your brain down.”

One Patients Like Me member agrees in its ability to both lull him to sleep and help promote restful slumber: “Lately, because I had stressful dreams, I watched ASMR video while my meds were kicking in for about an hour before my sleeping time… It took some research and some trial-and-error to find an ASMR artist who suited my anxiety and entertainment wants. My dreams were then neutral in my experience.”

The majority of people who create ASMR content are women. Using calming voices, they convey tenderness and care and sometimes even emulate touch aimed toward their viewers. The sense of pleasure that the videos incite in some viewers have led come to label ASMR a “brain orgasm” or “whisper porn.” Most people do not report sexual stimulus from the videos as a prime motivator, as reduced heart rate is a common response, which is not typically associated with sexual arousal.

Have you tried ASMR or do you have questions about it? Chat with the community here, and remember to update your profile (under the “My health” tab) if you’ve tried it as part of your treatment plan.


Lights out: Bedtime tips to help you sleep through the night

Posted 11 months ago by

Do you have a bedtime routine? Sleep is a challenge for many members in the mental health community — over 3,000 PatientsLikeMe members say they have difficulty sleeping through the night.

Establishing a regular bedtime and better sleep hygiene is one way to help manage restless nights. Check out some pointers from around the web, and hear from other members about their nighttime rituals.

Setting aside “worry time” and other sleep hygiene reminders

Along with getting into a consistent sleep-and-wake cycle, building these habits into your nightly ritual might help:

  • Set aside worry time— A few hours before you go to bed, take time to address and contemplate all you have on your mind (vs. letting it keep you up later).
  • Go to bed only when you feel tired enough to sleep
  • Prepare your brain and body for sleep with a signal it’s time to wind down, whether that’s a warm bath, dimming the lights or listening to soothing music
  • Stop screens (phones, tablets and computers) an hour before bedtime. If you can it might be a good idea trying to make sure that none of these devices are in your bedroom. If you’ve just brought yourself something like a new corner TV stand so that you can watch your favourite TV show in bed, then it might be a good idea to see if you can move that into another room. It all depends on whether or not you want to have that better night’s sleep.
  • Skip the book: “I don’t read in bed (that was a hard habit to break — I LOVE reading in bed),” says one member. Beds should be kept for sex and sleep, not reading, watching TV or looking at your phone.

Make your space suit you

  • Research shows the perfect sleep temps are somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your preference. A room that’s too hot or too cold can keep you up at night.
  • Keeping the room as dark as possible helps. Try black out curtains or an eye mask.
  • Invest in a good mattress. Understandably, mattresses aren’t cheap, but the more money you are willing to put into your mattress, the better nights sleep you can expect to get. After months of searching, we recently bought a queen mattress and it, as well as the Nectar mattress, rank as the best beds for back pain.
  • Turn that neon alarm clock toward the wall so you don’t know what time it is. Ticking off the minutes can lead to more anxiety about how you’re not sleeping. Suffering from anxiety before bed is not going to help you get to sleep quicker. If this is something that you struggle with then it might be a good idea that you start using something like a CBD product to help you have a better night’s sleep. If this is something that interests you, then you can click here for more information.
  • Some folks swear by white noise machines (with sounds from nature, like frogs or rain). Find the right white noise that works for your, even a fan or air purifier can help.

Long before lights out: Tips to keep in mind throughout your day

It’s not only about what you do right before you hit the hay — see how other actions throughout your day can help (or hurt) your sleep quality at night.

Exercise

Yoga or other types of relaxation exercises, like mindfulness meditation can make falling asleep easier, but some members go for something more rigorous..

  • “Another thing that helps is getting pretty serious exercise (1 hour of heart rate at or above 130, for me at least) five or six days a week,” says a member. “That’s not possible for everyone, but it definitely helps me.”
  • “I made the mistake of going for a run too late in the evening,” says a member. It only served to rev her up. Now she plans exercise well before bedtime.
  • Scheduling your exercise outdoors during the day can help some people. Sunlight helps establish your body’s sleep and wake cycles.

Eating and drinking

Drinking alcohol, which you might think will help put you out, actually has the opposite effect, and after a late night cocktail you can find yourself tossing and turning at 3 a.m.. Here are a few more pointers on food and drink from members

  • One member says skipping caffeine including coffee, tea and chocolate after 12:00 p.m. works best for her.
  • Eating meals at regular times also helps your sleep. “None of this dinner at 10 p.m. stuff, which can keep you up,” says a member.
  • “I know some folks who have had luck with Valerian extract, several drops on a sugar cube,” says another member. (Be sure to check with your doctor before trying Valerian or any other herbal remedy.)

Write it down

  • “When I write by hand in my journal every night, it is easier for me to just ‘word vomit.’ Of course, I can’t read anything I write afterwards, so it’s more an exercise of getting the feelings of the day out so I can go to sleep,” says another member.
  • “Writing is part of my bedtime routine, and includes my ‘gratitudes’ for the day, which I also find helps me wake up with a positive attitude in the morning,” a member explains.
  • You may find it helpful to go one step beyond just setting aside worry time (mentioned above) and writing it down or talking to a friend before settling in for the night.

Interested in joining the conversation about bedtime habits and sleep? Log in or join PatientsLikeMe.

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