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‘I think everybody has their thing:’ New trend, people use repetitive sounds on YouTube to unwind

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Elissa Kedziorek admits her pre-sleep routine may be strange to some, but for her, it's a great way to relax.

“It has to be light and delicate, “ says the student at Western Michigan University. "For me, it's whispering videos." Those videos are posted on YouTube by the millions and are becoming increasingly popular. “I’ll tell people my age and they'll say what, what's that.. creepy," she said.

Though it may make some uncomfortable, it's a godsend for others, who say the videos make them calmer and less anxious.

A new report claims listening to repetitive sounds could be just as relaxing for your body as yoga or meditation.

We all know a bedtime story can easily put people to sleep, but researchers claim it might help more if the reader whispers, taps their finger, or pretends to brush your hair.

It's called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, and people are actually using it to relax.

Dr. Craig Richard, the founder of ASMR University and writer of the book “Brain Tingles,” ASMR is a relaxing sensation accompanied by brain and/or body tingles in response to triggers like light touches, gentle speech, soft whispering, and delicate sounds.

"One of the most popular examples of getting ASMR from a video recording is the TV show “The Joy of Painting,” which was hosted by Bob Ross," said Dr. Richard.

According to a study published in the journal Plos One, about half of the participants who were diagnosed with anxiety or insomnia reported that ASMR was helpful to their condition. Dr. Richard explained that the most common physical sensation selected by the participants was a tingling in the brain or head region, supporting the common reference to ASMR being called "brain tingles."

"It is not known yet what exactly is occurring in the brain during the relaxed and tingly moments of ASMR," Dr. Richard said. “It is likely that the neurohormone oxytocin is involved, because this brain chemical is released during caring moments between individuals and induces similar feelings of relaxation and comfort.”

ASMR is stimulated in an individual usually created by another person who has a caring disposition. "Many of these moments happen naturally between parents and children, friends, romantic partners, hairdressers and clients, clinicians and parents, as well as, teachers and students," said Dr. Richard.

It's also something Melissa Tungl, owner of Seva Yoga in East Grand Rapids says is achieved with meditation.

“Yoga practice helps clear the body of all of those distractions, so you can sit and find clarity in your mind and spirit,” Tungl said.

She says yoga works by calming the nervous system through breath and movement.

“My biggest advice is to not have expectations about what it should be,” she added. “Really, the opportunity to sit still in this busy world is a gift, but I think we get into trouble when we think yoga and meditation is to clear our minds. We start to think, ‘Oh I’m distracted, I can’t do this, I’m doing it wrong.’ Then we give up.”

We should never be giving up self-care, says Andrea Hop, a health coach at Grand Rapids Natural Health. Whether it's listening to whispers, using an essential oil, drinking tea, meditating or utilizing acupuncture, Hop says your health should always be your first priority.

Hop suggests using blackout curtains, avoiding electronics before bedtime, using a scrub brush and good quality essential oils like lavender and cedarwood to help your body destress. She also notes it's important to avoid scented candles at night because the toxins from chemicals can disrupt the body.

Also, "certain diets don’t work for everybody. Certain forms of movement don’t work for everybody, Hop says. "You want to pick the one you're drawn to and help you relax."

Elissa Kedziorek, the student at WMU, is an ASMR believer. "I would say try it, you never know. If it’s weird for you and makes you uncomfortable. there's nothing lost there. But if it does work for you, it really is a life-changer.”

We reached out to several medical practices in West Michigan who all told us they didn't know enough about ASMR or the science behind it. But as Dr. Richard says, it's working for a lot of people.

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