Saigon woman helps people sleep with sounds

By Thanh Nga   June 3, 2024 | 02:04 am PT
Ngoc Minh starts her livestream at 9 p.m. every day. With soft instrumental music playing in the background, she creates ASMR sounds using a microphone and various tools to help people fall asleep.

Ngoc Minh, nicknamed Nga Chan, 27, of HCMC, says autonomous sensory meridian response is a tingling, pleasant sensation triggered by soft sounds and felt throughout the body.

Her listeners wear headphones and listen to the sounds for 15 minutes while lying in a relaxed position.

Minh keeps changing tools to create different sounds during her live sessions, which last two to three hours.

"Each of my live sessions usually has two or three thousand viewers, sometimes tens of thousands," she says. "They are all people who have trouble sleeping or need to relieve stress."

Ngoc Minh conducts a livestream session on May 5, 2024. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Minh

Ngoc Minh conducts a livestream session on May 5, 2024. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Minh

Six years ago, as a third-year university student, Minh had trouble sleeping since she was often studying late at night and working part-time. It was then that she stumbled upon ASMR videos that featured various sounds like that of chewing and swallowing deep-fried foods.

The sounds seemed akin to a full-body massage to her.

She got hooked immediately and started watching similar videos every night. "Not everyone can afford therapy at the hospital, while many people rely on sleeping pills. I decided to start the job (autonomous sensory meridian response livestreams) because it is a safe way to help people relax."

In 2018 ASMR content was not yet popular in Vietnam, and there were only a few Vietnamese ASMR creators.

So Minh turned to foreign creators for reference and began practicing on her own.

Understanding that sound quality was crucial in ASMR, she invested VND5 million (US$196.40) in buying a high-quality microphone and started creating ASMR content focused on eating sounds. She would use fruits and sweets available at home to create chewing and peeling sounds.

She explains that when chewing, she has to do it softly and at a slow pace in order to not cause discomfort for the listeners.

Minh says: "During many livestream sessions, some people did not know what I was doing and insulted me. They called me abnormal because I was eating and not saying anything. Some even called me deaf."

Despite feeling disheartened and finding herself on the verge of crying at times, she tried to hold back and move on.

After a year she started having digestive problems and stomach pain from late-night work sessions and excessive eating.

Her livestreams did not attract a lot of viewers either. With little income from the job and little savings left, she decided to stop creating content.

Minh’s work corner, with various tools she uses for creating ASMR triggering sounds. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Minh

Minh’s work corner, with various tools she uses for creating ASMR triggering sounds. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Minh

After finishing university in 2020, Minh relocated from Hanoi to HCMC. Minh decided to resume her ASMR livestream sessions, starting with daily sessions at night.

This time she started to experiment with new sounds: ear cleaning, hair brushing, tapping, water dripping, and clock ticking.

"Chewing and swallowing sounds tend to stimulate viewers’ appetite, while the current sounds are more therapeutic by nature, allowing the audience to listen without watching the video," she explains.

Tapping and scratching sounds must follow specific rhythms to avoid irritating listeners, she says. Speaking loudly is not allowed during ASMR performances. Performers can only whisper softly to create gentle sounds.

Minh keeps her audience engaged by changing methods every 4 to 5 minutes. She uses a humidifier to mimic rainfall and flowing water and creates page flipping sounds with books.

Sticky finger sounds come from playful experimentation with duct tape, gel, slime, and even honey.

Minh also cares about creating a good visual experience for her viewers. She invests in backdrops and uses warm, soothing lighting. Each time she is on air, Minh switches her hairstyle and makeup.

After three months of resumption, Minh had millions of views for her ASMR videos, while her livestream sessions attracted hundreds to thousands of viewers.

She started to earn an income from the videos and get partnership deals for the products she used.

On average, she earns VND60-70 million a month, at times rising to VND100 million. She now has four million followers on her channel.

Many people who suffer from insomnia send her heartfelt messages during her live sessions. For most, her performances are very therapeutic, leading to improved sleep quality.

The various tools that Minh uses during her sessions. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Minh

The various tools that Minh uses during her sessions. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Minh

Nowadays, many young people enjoy ASMR content, with more than 30 million users making regular searches for it on TikTok.

Nguyen Viet Chung, a lecturer at University of Medicine and Pharmacy (Vietnam National University, Hanoi), says ASMR is a form of music therapy that is accessible, inexpensive, engaging, and innovative.

It is effective in treating insomnia caused by mild stress, he says. But he warns against amateur therapists. "In order to become professional therapists, they need to be well trained and equipped with knowledge about psychology and psychopathology, and undergo a few years of supervised therapy practice."

Since she began working full-time as an ASMR performer and content creator, Minh has been staying up late every day.

On average people fall asleep within 15 minutes. But for some livestream audiences with severe insomnia, it takes Minh two to three hours to make them fall asleep. "I have to burn the midnight oil to help others sleep, even during times when I am very sick. There are people waiting for my help every night."

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