How to Become a Professional Sleeper (Salary & Steps)

Catch your Zs and earn some cash!

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Professional sleeper sleeping in bed

Are you guilty of hitting the “snooze” button 5, 10, 20 times when your alarm goes off in the morning? Does getting out of bed feel like a monumental effort? Do you spend your day at work daydreaming about your bed?

What if we told you that you could sleep for a living?

It may sound too good to be true, but we can assure you: you can — as a professional sleeper.

And in this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to about this dream job, including what it entails, what it pays and how to find opportunities.

What is a professional sleeper?

Quite simply, a professional sleeper is someone who gets paid to sleep. They generally do this as part of scientific research focused on analyzing sleep patterns or evaluating the quality of various sleep-related products.

What does a professional sleeper do?

Although your day-to-day duties will vary, you’ll generally be expected to:

  • Carry out product testing on beds, mattresses, bedding and pillows
  • Write detailed reports on comfort, room lighting, feelings and noise disruption
  • Occasionally take sleep aids that will help you fall asleep for medical trials
  • Take sleeping aids to remain still for art exhibitions
  • Perform tests after waking, such as cognitive function tests
  • Fall asleep in different conditions and then draw comparisons between them

What is their day to day like?

Sleeping on the job might not be all it is hyped up to be, as contracts for professional sleepers aren’t known for being consistent, which is typical for all types of freelance work. In other words, this isn’t your typical 9-to-5 job.

Mattress and sleep testers will generally need to sign up to multiple different studies and manage their diary to ensure no two jobs clash. Certain studies can last anywhere between 24 hours and 2 months, so there’s no telling how long you will need to spend away from home.

Employers should be able to guarantee you a safe working environment — you’ll either work (sleep) in test centers, hospitals or even luxury hotels, and there will always be a medical professional close by if needed.

How much do professional sleepers earn?

As the length and duties of each job vary, it’s difficult to set an average salary.

That said, NASA paid volunteers $18,000 to lie in bed for 70 days back in 2013, while one study at the University of Colorado offered to pay subjects up to $2,730 to participate in a 14–17-hour sleep study.

In 2006, meanwhile, budget hotel chain Travelodge hired Wayne Munnelly into their newly created Director of Sleep position. He was offered a £60,000 ($76,450) salary to sleep in every single one of the chain’s 17,000 rooms and evaluate lighting, noise, cleanliness and overall comfort.

Roisin Madigan, a student from Manchester, was paid £1,000 ($1,270) to sleep in designer beds every day for a month, while the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City offered subjects $10 an hour to take sleeping pills and sleep on a bed in the middle of the museum as part of a Chu Yun exhibit.

What’s the job market like?

It’s safe to say that sleeping professionally is a future-proof profession, as machines and AI simply aren’t built to feel any emotion, including comfort and relaxation. In other words, for as long as humans continue to be biologically hardwired for sleeping, there will also be products made to facilitate and improve our sleep. And people are going to continue to be needed to test those products, be they beds, mattresses, quilts, blankets or pillows.

However, based on what we know about professional sleepers today, we can infer that the job will continue to better lend itself as a side hustle or temporary gig than a full-time occupation.

What skills do you need to become a professional sleeper?

In order to succeed in this exciting career path, you’ll need:

  • the ability to sleep in new surroundings, away from home for long periods of time
  • the ability to sleep with wires attached to you, knowing that people will be watching you
  • good overall health and fitness
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to write compelling and interesting reports
  • good observational skills
  • a strong character and not be bothered about spending a lot of time secluded from others
  • strong organizational skills

What are the entry requirements?

In most cases, there are no specific qualifications needed to become a professional sleeper. However, you do need to be at least 18 years of age and meet a variety of other criteria for scientific studies.

This will vary from job to job, but you’ll usually need to be in good health and willing to provide your full medical history and, in some cases, the medical history of your entire family.

For some studies (such as those that test sleeping pills), you may need to be afflicted with certain conditions such as insomnia. Additionally, you’ll need to have a flexible working schedule, as projects can take place at any time of the day.

What are the pros and cons of becoming a professional sleeper?

As you’re aware, every good position comes with a list of negatives, too. It’s important that you consider the drawbacks as well as the benefits of this career path, before deciding whether to pursue it. To help you decide if this is the role for you, we’ve listed the top pros and cons below.

Pros include:

  • Getting paid to sleep
  • Learning more about your own sleeping patterns
  • Receiving medical treatment for any detected problems
  • Getting to stay in luxury hotels and enjoy five-star treatment as a mattress tester — for free

Cons include:

  • Needing to make some lifestyle changes — for example, to participate in some studies, you won’t be allowed caffeine, alcohol or vitamins, or will be asked to drink or eat certain foods
  • Spending a long time indoors and possibly feeling out of touch with the outside world
  • Spending long periods of time away from family and friends, depending on the gig
  • Having no regular source of income and other benefits
  • Having to wait up to a month to be allowed to participate in other tests

Do you have what it takes?

Sleeping professionally can be a good way to earn supplemental income. But the job is a little more demanding and complex than it sounds, as we discussed — it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, or, rather, all counting sheep and quick Zs.

To better understand whether your interests, personality, skill set and work motivators render you a suitable candidate for this type of job, consider taking a career-matching test, such as our very own over at CareerHunter. Comprising six assessments including personality and reasoning tests, it will give you valuable insights into the lines of work you could thrive in, matching you up against a database of 200 professions.

How do you become a professional sleeper?

Your mind is set. You’ve already got your pajamas on. What next? Follow these five steps to land the role you dream of (pun intended).

Step 1: Build on your niche

Professional sleepers can offer their services to various industries, including scientific and clinical research, hospitality and manufacturing.

This means that your duties could change from one gig to the next — one week you could be testing mattresses and sleep conditions in hotel rooms, and the next you could be a research subject in a lab being tested for their sleeping patterns under the influence of sleeping pills.

As a result, this can be an ever-changing role without much consistency. However, if you really want to pursue this career and establish yourself as a professional, you should try to build on a niche, such as mattress quality assessment. Not only will this help you build on your experience, but it could also help you create connections with specific companies and acquire regular gigs.

That said, this is quite an obscure role, and job opportunities could be few and far between on some occasions. So, while you should try to specialize and build experience in certain areas, make sure that you remain flexible and open to available opportunities.

Step 2: Network with the right people

People who own or manage hotels, scientists and researchers, artists, mattress manufacturers, or even staff at market research companies can be great connections to have when you’re looking to become a professional sleeper.

The most obvious place to look for these connections is LinkedIn. Just a quick search can yield dozens of relevant results in your area, from company and research institute pages to profiles of the people who work for them.

When sending out invitations to connect, make sure to personalize your messages and explain your reason for reaching out. Then, be sure to actually nurture these connections by interacting with your network’s posts frequently as well as posting your own relevant content.

Step 3: Look for your first job

Landing your first job as a sleep tester isn’t as straightforward as other, more conventional, professions.

You’ll need to keep an eye out for adverts online. You could also set up a Google Alert for when sleep testing positions open up so you can be the first to be notified.

When searching for opportunities online, make sure to check out:

  • online job boards
  • universities
  • sleep clinics and institutes
  • medical research centers
  • bed and mattress manufacturers
  • hotels

Alternatively, you could contact mattress companies and hotels directly, and pitch your sleep testing services.

You could also set up your own blog in the hope that you’ll get noticed by big companies who are looking for professional sleep testers.

Step 4: Prepare your application materials

If your job-hunting tactics and networking prove effective, you’ll come across a job opening that excites you. Since getting paid to sleep is not the kind of job advertisement you come across every day, you’ll want to maximize your chances of landing the role by perfecting your application materials — namely your cover letter and résumé.

As we mentioned, professional sleepers are expected to be excellent communicators — both verbally and in writing. In addition, they have to be well organized and be able to demonstrate great attention to detail.

If you’ve never worked as a professional sleeper before, you’ll want to emphasize those transferable skills that the person doing the hiring will be looking for. A skills-based résumé and an effective cover letter detailing why the job interests you and what makes you a great research subject are, therefore, essential.

Step 5: Develop your career

There isn’t much scope for career development in this field, but if you’re smart, you can grow your capital by taking part in high-paying studies.

A good way to achieve this is by establishing yourself as a professional sleeper and making yourself known to certain companies, clinics and research centers. This will help you not only be rehired for new gigs but also get referred to new potential employers looking for professional sleepers.

Final thoughts

Sleeping professionally isn’t exactly a conventional career path. That said, if you’re a naturally gifted sleeper, there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing available opportunities and filling the gap in the job market.

Even if you’re unable make a full-time career out of it, this can still be an excellent source of extra income and an interesting extracurricular for you. Plus, you’ll always be well-rested!

Originally published on April 4, 2017. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.