Europe

Irish waterfall video global YouTube hit for insomnia sufferers

  • 4 May 2015
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe footage has been viewed over six million times

Beneath a wooden footbridge on the River Bonet in County Leitrim, a small waterfall makes a noisy sound.

It rushes along, cascading down rocks, breaking the wild silence of the rural countryside.

It is a scene featured in a YouTube video that is now helping millions of insomnia sufferers, from Belfast to Beijing, who are struggling to sleep.

The eight-hour footage has been viewed over six million times and is now part of medical research used in several London hospitals as part of a clinical trial.

The man behind the video is visual artist Johnnie Lawson from County Leitrim.

"People who were finding it difficult to sleep began writing to me from all over the world - North Korea, the Central African Republic, Beijing and across the UK.

"They started leaving me messages, saying the recordings were helping to relieve their insomnia," Johnnie said.

"I've even had people watching my videos from inside the Vatican."

Peaceful serenity

The filmmaker posted his first video to YouTube five years ago, and to his surprise, it quickly attracted a fan base that he was not expecting.

Dr Dorothy Wade is a health psychologist who works in the intensive care unit at University College Hospital, London.

"The aim of the trial is to prevent intensive care patients from being traumatised and to cut the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder found in ICU survivors," she said.

"As part of the therapy, nurses give patients tablet computers with different relaxation materials on them. This includes Johnnie Lawson's videos of tranquil nature scenes."

Image caption St Patrick’s Holy Well outside Belcoo, County Fermanagh, which is featured in one of Mr Lawson's videos

The trial involves researchers from University College Hospital, University College London and the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre in London.

Mr Lawson started making the videos as a way to bring nature into people's lives.

"I consider myself lucky to live in the unexplored and peaceful hills of County Leitrim," he said.

Unlikely fan

Comments left under his YouTube videos each tell their own story of how the posts have helped people.

"I am in the middle of Manhattan. I didn't even know such serenity existed," said one New York resident.

"Thanks for helping me stay focused over a few 19-hour research and writing sessions," added one Boston student.

As the popularity of Johnnie's videos increased, so too did their length.

"Insomnia suffers would fall asleep listening to some of my videos, but they'd wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of silence.

"That's when I started making eight-hour long videos, like the waterfall on the River Bonet," Johnnie said.

"If people woke up during the night, they'd be met with the sound of nature.

"It would put them back to sleep again."

Image caption He has also captured the Cladagh River in Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, on film

Mr Lawson has filmed 174 videos near rivers and lakes in counties Leitrim, Fermanagh and Sligo.

Locations in Fermanagh include the Cladagh River, Lough Macnean, the Marble Arch Caves and St Patrick's Holy Well outside Belcoo.

And while the County Leitrim artist is enjoying his new found fame, there's one burning question that remains unanswered for him.

"Is Pope Francis really a fan?"

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