The grating sound of nails on a chalkboard that leads many to shudder is a well-known phenomenon, but it has an opposite, and people call it Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, aka ASMR. People may have different triggers—whispering, light touches on the face, hair brushing, etc.—but the end goal is to feel a tingling sensation that can be so calming it sometimes initiates sleep. And since the term ASMR was coined in 2010, there's a burgeoning sub-genre of ASMR videos on YouTube, some of which get millions of views and lead to sizable pay checks for the creators, reports CNBC.
"It's a very pleasant, natural high state that you want more and more of," says Maria, who only uses her first name and whose channel Gentle Whispering ASMR has more than 880,000 subscribers; her top five videos have amassed more than 47 million views. Maria whispers, looks directly into the camera, and touches a range of objects with soft but firm swirling motions—ASMR is sometimes called a "brain orgasm," although one study from 2015 suggests that the videos are only sexual for 5% of viewers and are used by 82% of viewers for help falling asleep. Eater reports that ASMR is even found in the world of food videos, with videos of eating or cooking sounds becoming increasingly popular among the ASMR crowd. (This mom turned to YouTube to build a house.)