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Te Aroha Sleep Radio 2019

A Te Aroha radio station is sending more than 40,000 people worldwide to sleep
Sharnae Hope

Almost all of John Watson's audience nods off to sleep.

Thanks to the Te Aroha man's DJ skills more than 40,000 insomniacs worldwide are falling into a restful slumber.

The 63-year-old man for the last five years has been broadcasting to the world a mix of calming ambient sounds- where engagement isn't measured by how long his audience stays tuned, but how quickly they fall asleep.

People from as far away as Afghanistan, Israel, Russia, Hungary, Taiwan and Puerto Rico log on to Watson's station or app, Sleep Radio. They can choose how long the station will play for and be lulled to sleep.

John Watson

Te Aroha man John Watson started out with six listeners and now has 186 countries listening into Sleep Radio. Photo: SHARNAE HOPE/STUFF

"On the first night we ended up with six listeners and I was elated," Watson said. "Five years later we have over 40,000 unique listeners a month, so it's just gone bananas.

"I would never have imagined it would get this popular and I honestly don't know why."

The idea of a radio station that sends listeners to sleep came to Watson after he had a heart attack 11 years ago. Following five coronary artery bypasses he began to suffer from chronic depression and, as a side effect, insomnia.

"Initially I was recommended to look at relaxation CDs by my counsellor and I did that, but very quickly I got sick of listening to the same old CDs."

He researched online and found a few stations that broadcasted relaxing music, but said, they always had ads or talkback back through the middle of them.

"I'd be lying there with my ear buds in and after about 15 minutes along comes an announcer and along comes an advert, which wakes you up, but worse still keeps you awake."


A Te Aroha radio station is sending more than 40,000 insomniacs worldwide to sleep. Photo: 123rf

That was when, he started playing around with different tracks and made his own online playlist. When he found out how many people around the world suffered from insomnia as well, he decided to create a station myself.

Now five years on, he receives three or four soundtracks a day from artists all over the world, but he said, 90 per cent of the albums aren't usable because he doesn't consider them relaxing.

He spends most of his day listening to every song making sure it is relaxing the whole way through the track.

"Some tracks are an hour long and at the start I wasn't listening all the way through, but I've been caught out a few times where there's been loud music in the middle of it, so now I listen to the whole thing.

"I get all sorts of emails, from people with bad insomnia to people who enjoy listening to it to start their day. One mum emailed through, saying she uses it to help her baby fall asleep."

Watson said ambient music, however, doesn't work for everyone. He said his wife finds it too boring and instead snoozes off to talkback.

"Basically it is music that suits me. If you've got music that has drums in or a recognisable beat or something like singing then it doesn't work. It has to be very soft and very ambient and quite neutral.

"I just seem to have fit the magic formula in terms of what I like seems to be what other people like as well."


Five years on, Te Aroha man John Watson still listens to his own mix of ambient sounds to help him sleep. Photo: SHARNAE HOPE/STUFF

© Stuff Nov 19 2019

This material remains © Stuff Limited and is only to be used for non-commercial personal or research use. Any other use requires permission of the copyright holder.

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