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TikTok Users Are Streaming Themselves Sleeping For Profit. People Are Actually Watching.

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Some TikTok users are streaming videos of themselves sleeping overnight and are actually making cash doing so, according to a new investigation from the New York Times.

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How sleep-streaming works

Users of the popular short-video-streaming social media platform usually create a promotional video before they start a sleep-stream. Then once it’s time to go to bed the streamers prop their phones up on their nightstand, crawl under the covers, and go to sleep after pressing the “live” button.

Uh, what?

If you think that literally nobody would want to watch a video of a random person sleeping then you aren’t acquainted with the TikTok community, which is one of the oddest groups of people on the internet.

“I think it’s about trying to find online friends,” Ms. Stephens said. Todd Neer, 32, has watched a handful of sleep-streams and has actually streamed himself sleeping on one occasion. “It creates a chance for a live online chat that’s not really available anywhere else in TikTok,” he said. “The sessions aren’t saved, so you just chat with whoever is there. It’s just an opportunity to have a more real-time dialogue than the comments section on someone’s post. It’s a hub for people to have conversations.”

It appears that sleep-streams are a way for users to “seek authenticity”. If someone sees that their favorite streamer is a regular person who has the same biological needs as everyone else it can help humanize them. In a modern world where everything is fake, seeing someone sleep for eight hours might be the only real thing that a young person sees all day.

“Audiences really like the behind the scenes of someone’s life,” said Brandon Nadler, founder of The Network Effect. “They want authentic, engaging content. Watching someone sleeping, while it’s unique and somewhat strange, as you start to understand what really works on social media, it makes sense.”

Downsides of sleep-streaming

Sleep-streaming isn’t all fun and profit, however.

The performance anxiety and blue light (we recommend Eight Sleep blue-light-blocking glasses to deal with this) from the phone screen can cause the streamer to wake up during the night. One streamer reported waking up to find that 600 people were tuned in to watch him sleep. “When I woke up they’d be like, ‘OMG he’s awake!’”

Since the streams are viewed live in real-time and are completely unedited there are some safety issues.

“I didn’t show much of my room because I have a lot of pictures,” streamer Rylee Breanne, 21, said. “I didn’t want to show anything that showed where I lived. You could just see my head and my bed.”.

Another streamer said that “I didn’t want to show anything that showed where I lived. You could just see my head and my bed.” The 21-year-old sleep-streamer said that he turned his phone over after a couple hours to shut the stream down. “It was kind of nerve racking,” he said, “Like, what if someone could hack into my phone and figure out where I am?” 

The TikTok streaming world is so, so bizarre

To deal with these safety concerns, other TikTok users are streaming inanimate objects – and getting thousands of views.

“People have gone live saying, ‘Oh, my parents don’t want me filming myself sleeping, so I’ll stream this other picture in another room overnight,’” Breanne said.

“I’ve seen people live-stream their rooftop overnight with 10,000 people watching, or people stream a glass of milk while they’re gone at work,” a streamer said. “All these people come into the live just to chat and make group chats.”

A 24-year-old TikTok user named Joe Faye started live-streaming his white Tesla while it “slept” in his driveway overnight. He taped his phone to the window, hooked it up to a charger, and woke up in the morning $50 richer. “It’s a pretty easy thing to do,” he said. He went on to mention that he’s going to continue streaming his Tesla until the trend dies.

Some streamers even purposely stream their relaxing nighttime routine, including soft music and white noise sounds to help their viewers relax.

At the end of the day, sleep-streams aren’t just for attention and profit. Some users claim that it helps them fall asleep easier. “When I did it, I felt like people were watching over me so nothing could happen to me,” Mr. Reyes said. “I slept like a baby.”