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Te Aroha Sleep Radio 2015

Te Aroha's Sleep Radio station helps with insomnia
Teresa Ramsey

John Watson

John Watson is hard at work at Sleep Radio HQ in Te Aroha. Photo: TERESA RAMSEY/FAIRFAX NZ

A bad case of insomnia has resulted in a not-for-profit online radio station designed to put listeners to sleep.

John Watson founded Sleep Radio in Te Aroha a year ago after being diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, which led to sleeplessness.

"I'd lay in bed for hours and hours at night staring at the ceiling," he said.

"I had to do something about it."

With 18 years' experience as a cinema projectionist and working in theatre, Watson had the skills to set up the radio station, so decided to give it a go.

Sleep Radio has no advertisements or DJ, playing non-stop ambient music to help those with insomnia find relaxation and sleep.

Watson runs the radio station from his home in Te Aroha in the Waikato. He and his wife, Deborah, moved to Te Aroha from the North Shore in Auckland a few months ago.

He spends several hours a day running Sleep Radio and also posts monthly podcasts of interviews with sleep specialists on his website,

"It's basically a passion and a hobby really more than anything else."

Sleep radio is an internet-only station and not on the AM or FM radio bands.

It cost about $500 to set up the radio station, with running costs of about $500 per year, he said.

He received some donations towards running costs - a broken computer was recently replaced with donations from a Givealittle fundraising page set up online, he said.

Listeners could also make donations through the website.

About 400 people from around the world tuned in to Sleep Radio, depending on the time of day or night, he said.

There were also 18,200 followers on, where the station was also broadcast.

Feedback had been very positive through social media as well, he said.

"That's the satisfaction I get out of it."

Finding the right kind of soothing music had not been a problem, he said.

Watson was regularly approached by ambient music artists from all over the world who wanted to promote their music.

"It's not a popular genre, it's not the sort of thing you'll hear on the radio. Every day I'm besieged with more music than I can handle."

Watson said he still had trouble sleeping at night, but found listening to his own radio station gets him off to sleep pretty quickly.

"It's pure soothing ambient music 24 hours a day."

© Stuff Nov 12 2015

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