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The Coolest Jobs for Insomniacs

9 minute read

By WalletGenius Staff

As many as one-third of American workers have dozed off while on the clock [source: Adams]. Think about that: That’s one out of three people too sleep deprived to do anything but nap while at work. And, bigger picture, about 10 percent of us admit our sleep deprivation makes it difficult to concentrate and that we just can’t keep up when it comes to our overall productivity [source: National Sleep Foundation]. It’s easy to blame our inability to fall asleep – or stay asleep – on the stress and demands of a modern lifestyle, but it turns out that insomnia is not a modern-day phenomenon (although our always-on lifestyles aren’t helping).

Insomnia isn’t what happens when you nap too long in the afternoon and can’t manage to get to sleep at your normal bedtime that night; that’s just poor planning. The brains of insomniacs, it turns out, are more excitable than brains of those with normal sleep patterns. And humans have been suffering with the condition since at least the times of ancient Egypt (and, likely, deeper into human history than that). Opium cures for insomniacs are described in ancient Egyptian documents, and insomnia itself is referred to as “to be in bed and sleep not,” one of the “three living hells” described on an Egyptian hieroglyph [sources: Parker-PopeTodman]. While we don’t know how prevalent sleep disorders were among the ancients, we do know how pervasive the problem is today. Almost half of Americans suffer from occasional insomnia; about one-third suffer enough from sleep deprivation to gripe about how tired they are; and almost a quarter suffer from more chronic, frequent insomnia symptoms [sources: National Sleep FoundationParker-Pope].

Perhaps not all of us are using our sleep habits to our advantage: About 41 percent of us consider ourselves more productive at night, yet only about 3 percent of the American workforce is made up of night owls [sources: ZupekBierma]. Creatures of the night, we can do better. Consider how much better the smell of bread dough rising in the moonlight is compared to another sleepless night staring at the moon from your bed.


As it turns out, “time to make the doughnuts” is sometime before the sun rises, and bakers may begin their day as early as 2 a.m. or work an overnight shift to ensure baked goods hit the shelves before the rest of us wake up with cinnamon rolls on the brain.

When you stop in for a pastry on your way to work, still bleary-eyed from your morning alarm, the person who made that doughnut, cinnamon roll or croissant has been up for hours already. More than 13 million people work in the restaurant industry in the U.S.; about 166,000 are bakers, and Americans spend more than $3 billion buying their baked goods just at supermarkets alone [source: CFNC].

Online Gaming Community Manager

Online gaming community managers are most often gamers themselves and share that common interest with the gamers in the community they manage. This is a 24-hour business. The global gaming industry grew 9 percent in 2013. As many as 73 percent of gamers don’t speak English – and online community managers are needed around the clock to assist players all over the world [source: Driver].

CMs aren’t marketers or developers; they function as a bridge between the consumers who play a franchise and the tech team behind it. They moderate forums and user-generated content and are engaged within the community. Consider online gaming community managers as brand ambassadors, experts in brand-to-consumer communication with the aim of creating gamer loyalty – and good word of mouth about a franchise or studio. They also identify trends and share community insights, such as game improvements or problems. Of course, they need to have excellent communication and social media skills.


According to urban legend, Ben Franklin once said something about how beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. That quote attribution may be a myth, but it does point to one of the reasons we like our bartenders – they pour us our favorite poison. They also listen to our stories, jokes and, frankly, probably more of our malarkey than our therapists do.

Bartenders talk to more people than they’ll ever remember, an interesting perk if you don’t mind chatting with strangers and meeting new (possibly drunk, or at least tipsy) people. They work in restaurants, clubs and bars, which generally means a late-night lifestyle. Bartenders are on the job when everyone else is off the clock and looking for a good time. Depending upon the state, last call for alcohol may not be until 1 a.m. or later into the morning – last call in bars in some cities and states isn’t until 4 or 5 a.m., and in Nevada it’s a 24/7 job [source: Socially Responsible Drinking].

Casino Game Dealer

Game dealers may work a variety of tables, from poker or blackjack to craps or baccarat, and are responsible for almost half of the nearly $95 billion annual gaming revenue in just the U.S. alone [source: Casino City Press].

Most casinos will train their own game table dealers, so working in the pits may be slightly different from venue to venue, but one thing is for certain: Gambling is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week business in casinos (and on cruise ships) around the world. Daytime shifts (especially early morning hours) aren’t usually as busy as night shifts at the gaming tables.

casino dealerShutterstock

Paranormal Investigator

Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full-trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis? While that’s not list of job qualifications, you do need an open mind to be a paranormal investigator. Ghost hunters investigate spirit activity (both friendly and not-so-friendly hauntings) and conduct field research by photographing possible sightings or paranormal activity. They also identify electromagnetic fields in the vicinity, measure solar flare activity and static charge, and record temperature and electronic voice phenomena.

Paranormal investigators primarily work at night – after all, isn’t that when things “go bump”?

White Hat Hacker

In just a single year, it’s estimated that global cybercrime costs $113 billion and affects the lives of more than 375 million victims [sources: MartinezThe Economist]. Consider the massive scale of recent data breaches. For instance, in 2014 Home Depot announced 56 million customer accounts had been breached. Seventy-six million consumers and 7 million small business accounts were affected by a breach at JP Morgan Chase that same year [sources: WinterVinton].

If you think all hackers do is exploit vulnerabilities, well, you’re right. However, not every hacker is committing a crime. Here’s the difference: Black hat hackers don’t have permission, whereas white hat hackers do. Known as “pentesters” (penetration testers), white hat hackers are hired by companies to find and sometimes fix security flaws. PayPal, for example, reports the company has compensated roughly 1,000 of the good guys for reporting security risks. Those 1,000 pentesters were scattered across more than 66 countries and a variety of professional backgrounds [source: Shahani].

Night Trader

When an earthquake-stricken Japan was hit with a nuclear reactor meltdown in 2011, night traders went into action to dump stock in the company that made the reactor (General Electric) before the day traders were even out of bed [source: Lambert].

Back in 1999, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allowed investors to trade stocks outside of the regular 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) stock market hours, and a new type of trader was born: the night trader. Off-hours trading takes place pre-market (from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EST) and after-hours (4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. EST). And then there are people trading on the foreign exchange market (forex) at all hours. If hot earnings releases, foreign-exchange trading and making a profit off of real-time news events is important to you, maybe it’s time to expand beyond day trading.

Disc Jockey

Professional DJs spin music – both what’s hot and what they think you should be listening to – for a living, whether it’s live at a club, social event or private party; recorded for a podcast; or delivered streaming or old-school style on the radio. And while some radio DJs may work a day shift, you’ll find many playing and mixing records for tranced-out rave bunnies all night long.

Naturally, DJs should love music, but it’s not just about playing the newest singles; it’s also about engaging a late-night crowd. Depending on the type of gig, technical know-how is also a requirement, sometimes for more than just musical equipment. Club DJs, for instance, sometimes choreograph visual effects to enhance their audio show.

DJ in nightclubShutterstock


You may think of a roadie as someone who maintains band equipment, packing it up, setting it up and tearing it down as needed. While they definitely do that, there are actually a few different flavors of what roadies do at stage shows. Some work as production managers; some are front-of-house mixers. There are monitor techs and instrument techs, lighting directors, riggers, bus and truck drivers, and tour merchandisers.

However, what they all have in common is that they all make concerts happen, most often working evening hours and late into the night. And let’s not even talk about what happens in the wee hours of the morning on those tour buses.

Police Officer

Policing is not an easy job, but it pays well and offers great benefits. It’s also a job that involves shift work and plenty of overnights. Most police officers switch between working day and night shifts and the night work can extend through the wee hours as police break-up bar fights, throw people in the drunk tank, attend traffic accidents and patrol neighbourhoods under cover of darkness.

People who are insomniacs or night owls should consider a career in policing. With plenty of night work, the job is ideally suited to people who are at their best late when it’s dark outside. Police officers’ salaries can top $100,000 a year with overtime pay. And there likely would be plenty of people willing to swap their night shifts for a few more day shifts. Just remember that the streets tend to be at their most dangerous at nighttime.

Security Guard

In the same vein as law enforcement yet a little lower key is the job of security guard. Rather than patrol the streets for criminals, security guards patrol buildings on the lookout for trespassers. This is a job ideally suited to insomniacs as most security guards work overnight, manning the front desk of buildings and registering people who come and go.

Security guards also make regular patrols around the inside of buildings, ensuring that doors are locked, windows are closed, and rooms are vacant. In between rounds, security guards bide their time at the front desk by reading, watching TV or doing crossword puzzles. Keep in mind that the role of security guard can be isolating and boring. Unless, of course, your building is invaded by terrorists as happened in the movie Die Hard.

Garbage Collector

Most garbage collection, especially from commercial districts, takes place in the early morning hours before the sun comes up. At three in the morning, garbage trucks can be found cruising through Chinatown and other downtown areas, tossing garbage from restaurants and bars. For people who have trouble sleeping, garbage collection could be just the ticket.

Of course the work isn’t glamorous and you’ll need to shower as soon as you get home. But most garbage collectors are part of a municipal union and have strong pay and benefits. The biggest complaint among garbage collectors (aside from the stench) is the hours they have to work, punching the clock after midnight. But if you’re up anyway, that shouldn’t bother you.


When on duty, most full-time firefighters live at the station house, cooking, cleaning, and waiting for the alarm to ring so they can attend a fire and put it out. Fire alarms sound at all hours of the day and night and firefighters often find themselves battling a blaze under the stars. This is a job ideally suited to people who cannot sleep regular hours.

And, when not attending a fire, firefighters can hang out at the station house all night, playing cards or cleaning the fire trucks. There’s not shortage of things to do around a station house. Plus, unlike most jobs on this list, you will not be alone. Firefighters have plenty of camaraderie from their fellow firefighters who are with them on duty and at the station house.

Firefighters planning their jobsShutterstock

Taxi Driver

Taxi drivers like to say that they get the best tips after midnight when driving drunk people home from the bars. While lots of taxi drivers’ work days, many prefer to work nights as it is busier and they earn more money. People who are too tipsy to drive themselves home in the early hours of the morning still rely on taxi cabs.

Not all drunks are fun or friendly to be around and taxi drivers can end up seeing their share of misery late at night. But this is a job that’s best done in the dark when people step out of restaurants and movie theaters and hail a cab to take them home. The tips can be decent and the work solitary. For people who can’t sleep and prefer the nighttime, taxi driver is a viable option.


They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If that’s the case, break out your cape, utility belt and, of course, a mask to conceal your real identity. Why not aspire to spend your nights as Batman? After all, he doesn’t have any unattainable superhuman powers like invisibility or flying.

The Bottom Line

Being an insomniac doesn’t need to be a hardship. There are plenty of ways for people who can’t sleep to pass the time. Working late at night and into the morning is one way for insomniacs to be productive doing something they might actually enjoy. Keep an open mind and remember that there are lots of options available when it comes to jobs that need to be done in the dark hours. Batman doesn’t need to be the only person who gets to enjoy the city at night. You too can get out there and roam the streets in the wee small hours.

WalletGenius Staff


This article was worked on by a number of the WalletGenius staff, including freelancers, full-time writers, and editors.


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