Endless scrolling on social media has become a new American pastime — so much so that it’s hurting our collective sleep. A 2022 study by The Sleep Foundation found that one in seven people reported being active on social platforms well after jumping into bed, and 21% said they woke up in the middle of the night to check their feeds. It’s all had an effect on the quality of good REM sleep, per an Iranian study published in the National Library of Medicine.
But now some savvy TikTokers are using that phenomenon to their advantage — and making money from it. They’re engaging in what’s known as “sleep streaming,” according to a new profile in The Wall Street Journal. Sleep streaming involves running a live video feed of climbing into bed and snoozing for hours, much to the delight of thousands of viewers that regularly tune in.
This literal dream job pays about $35,000 a month, according to some TikTokers the outlet interviewed, which adds up to a massive $420,000 annual salary. The money is made via large audiences that tune in — audiences which can top 13,000 people at any one time, per the WSJ. Business Insider also reported on one person who earned $16,000 in a single night for the activity, offering a literal example of making money in your sleep.
Some have even added a “challenge” to the activity, making the stream interactive almost like a video game. It can include purchasing “virtual gifts” that set off noises and lights in an attempt to wake the sleep streamer. One TikToker charges $380 to set off all the alarms in his bedroom and, when it’s purchased, the live audience gets a notification to tune into the bedlam.
Why Watch People Sleep (and Often Pay To Do So)?
The biggest question that remains, however, is: Why? Traditional sleep streaming is soothing, or so say some of the audience members the WSJ interviewed. It’s “almost companionship in an odd way. I watch it basically to prep for bed myself,” said one 43-year-old fan.
TikTok has apparently been noticing the trend, adding sleeping content to its suggested “for you” hub, which spurred on an interested audience. It’s become so big that sleep streaming has even resulted in scam artists trying to make a quick buck. Some scammers record other TikTokers sleeping and try to pass it off as themselves on a separate (and unrelated) account.
The concept first took shape on Twitch in early 2021, per GeekWire, and the outlet suggested that the appeal is easy to explain. Social media thrives on providing a window into other people’s lives, just like the ever-popular reality TV phenomenon. Social media streams found even more renewed interest during the pandemic, when countless people craved human contact. Watching people sleep — how they do it, how much they toss and turn, if they snore, and whether you can wake them up from afar — is perhaps a voyeuristic pursuit.
Sleep Streaming May Be Waning in Popularity
But, will it last? Probably not if the statistics prove to be true, showing that all good things come to an end – even on social media. According to the Business of Fashion, most TikTok trends last around six months or so, give or take.
And if you’re thinking it could be your way to fast riches, sleep streaming won’t garner the same mass audience for everyone who wants to go to bed with an audience. According to GeekWire, “The unifying factor among top-10 sleep streamers seems to be that they’re pro gamers with a tendency to pass out at their keyboards, running a round-the-clock marathon to gather an audience, or beauty/modeling-focused broadcasters. They’re obsessed, or they’re good-looking; there’s no real middle ground.”
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