Streaming has created all sorts of careers. But perhaps the most fascinating route for live-streamed livelihoods is the one with the least consciousness: People streaming themselves sleep.
It’s common enough that sleep has its own category under Twitch’s IRL page, which encompasses Just Chatting, ASMR, podcasts and other non-gaming channels. Sleeping on camera certainly isn’t as popular as, say, Norse survival simulators or the platform’s growing attachment to political talkback shows and analysis.
But the amounts of money that people can rack up for passing out are surprising. Of course, it’s not always just sleeping. Twitch is an interactive platform, after all. And nothing beats having a nice night of sleep, except for a night of sleep where viewers perpetually fuck it up by spamming voice-to-text commands, repeatedly playing music or causing smart speakers to go haywire.
One example of the trend came from Asian Andy, a streamer recently accused of sexual assault. Like many other streams on Twitch where user donations can trigger various interactions, Andy rigged up the speech-to-text recognition to his speakers.
So Twitch chat did what Twitch chat does best: constantly spammed the stream with ear-shatteringly loud dance music, regular messages warning that somebody was looking in through the window (there wasn’t), donations forcing Andy to tear up his shirt, and just constant chaos.
The misery was lucrative: Andy collected over $20,000 ($US16,000) for 7 hours of “sleep”.
Others have adopted a more sedate approach. One major streamer who regularly sleeps on camera is Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa, who also streams a lot of ASMR content. Users can play out text-to-speech messages for $US9 or the more expensive route of 1000 bits, which costs $22.40 in Australia. But since Amouranth’s community is already attracted to the serenity of her videos, it’s understandable that her chat is less liable to worship chaos.
Other major streamers have dabbled with making money off sleep streams, like Kacey “Kaceytron” Caviness, a streamer famous for trolling her audience, gamers and internet culture more broadly. Caviness told WIRED how sleep streams did “really good revenue for me” last year, although that situation may have changed after Caviness was banned for joking about the coronavirus pandemic.
Other sleep streams have also just been good, unprompted opportunities. Streamers don’t necessarily mean to fall asleep on camera, but the internet loves it when they do. One of the best examples was an impromptu marketing campaign from publishers Devolver Digital, who started giving away games after one Scottish streamer passed out playing one of their VR titles. It helped that the streamer (whose channel no longer exists) also had a small following at the time, giving Devolver’s move an added sense of generosity.
— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) August 15, 2017
But despite the massive popularity of ASMR content on the internet — even Pokémon has official ASMR videos now — it doesn’t look like sleeping will overtake Twitch’s IRL channel any time soon. It takes enough effort as is to get the cameras, overlays and environment right for a regular stream, let alone the camera angles and positioning needed to film your bed.
Even if more people’s living situations allowed for easier streaming from the bedroom, many aren’t comfortable with the vulnerability that sleep streams entail. Not everyone wants footage of them sleeptalking online saved for eternity, after all. But those that are OK with making that personal sacrifice will always find an audience on the internet. And in an age of content where any absence from the internet often results in a drop in views, future revenue and relevance, there’s some comfort in knowing that, maybe, you don’t always have to be physically “on”.