Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos have fast grown in popularity, helping those who indulge to relax or get better quality sleep. Well, that's what they say, at least. Is there an actual physiological response associated with this phenomenon? Turns out there is, according to a new paper out of the University of Sheffield.
The paper, entitled "More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology", details the results of two studies: a "large-scale online experiment" and one in the lab to "test the emotional and physiological correlates of the ASMR response".
Both studies found that ASMR does provoke a physical response, but only in those that "experienced ASMR". Basically, watching the video wasn't enough — your have to engage with it, so to speak.
In terms of a measurable response, those who identified as "non-ASMR" had an average lower heart rate of 2bpm (beats per minutes), while those that did feel ASMR had a 3.4bpm drop. In addition, "skin conductance" was increased in those who had an ASMR experience.
For the studies "having ASMR" was defined as "tingling sensations" and "positive affect[s] (calmness and excitement)".
Relaxation? Productivity? These don't go together... normally. If you just want to put butt to couch and think of nothing, that's fine. On the other hand, if you have a few drops of energy in reserve and wouldn't mind spending them while you chill, that's possible too.
Of course, there were limitations to the studies, the biggest one identified by the paper being an "expectation effect":
A key limitation in both studies is the possibility that our findings (particularly those related to tingle frequency and affective states) reflect a demand characteristic or expectation effect; that is, ASMR participants experienced changes in affect and physiology because they expected to whereas non-ASMR participant had no such expectations.
Even so, if ASMR — expected or not — can help you feel calmer and more relaxed, then you should certainly stick with it.