MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

Have you ever noticed how not getting enough sleep makes you disoriented and cranky? Sleep is critical for efficiency, but it tends to be the first thing we neglect. Learn how to get better sleep as Swanwick co-founder James Swanwick joins Whitney Lauritsen to talk about one of their company’s best innovations. James explains how their blue-light blocking glasses can help improve sleep quality. He speaks about the importance of a good night’s rest and shares tips on making dozing off easy. James also touches on his alcohol-free initiative and gives simple suggestions for reducing alcohol and improving health.

This episode is sponsored by Zencastr. Visit zencastr.com/pricing to try it out for free. And when you’re ready to up level, enter the code “wellevatr” to receive 30% off your first 3 months of the Pro plan!

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Sleep Study: How Better Sleep Impacts The Quality Of Your Life With James Swanwick

The guest is behind one of my favorite sleep-related companies called Swanwick. You may have read this brought up in some previous episodes because I have been wearing Swanwick blue blocker glasses for many years. I can’t remember what happened in my life that inspired me to start wearing them. I had been hearing about blue blockers from other people and seeing people wearing them. I love the stylishness. I remember I have a core memory of, in 2018, seeing Dave Asprey wear them on stage.

It was a big deal for me because I have always associated these glasses with sleeping in that I tend to wear them before I go to bed as a way to wind down. They are part of my nighttime routine. They helped me get into my sleep mode. If I’m going to be reading a book on my iPad, for example, I feel like they are helping my eyes. I want to hear more from James to confirm exactly what’s going on with my eyes. I have also started wearing them when I wake up, especially if I use any devices shortly after getting up.

It helps me wake up and ease into the day. I remember seeing Dave Asprey, who’s behind the brand Bulletproof, wearing the glasses on stage at a conference. It clicked in me how many other times in my day I could wear them, especially at conferences. I have started bringing these everywhere I go to take good care of my eyes and be mindful of the lighting. Blue blocker glasses also gave me more awareness. I did not know what blue light was, so I hope we can get into that.

Also, another subject that James is passionate about is alcohol. This is something that I have been raising my own awareness about in 2021 or so. After TikTok, I had posted some videos about some alcohol alternatives. I was curious about these things. I enjoy trying all sorts of unique products. There’s this brand called Seedlip. I made this short video about it and I could not believe the response that it had. It opened my eyes, pun intended to the blue blocker reference.

I had opened my eyes to how many people choose not to drink alcohol or can’t drink alcohol based on all different circumstances. I’m curious to talk to you about that, James because I had the privilege of not thinking that hard about alcohol. Alcoholism is not something I have had a lot of direct experiences with personally with my family or friends. It had not come up in a religious context. There have not been any major health issues. Nothing has prevented me from drinking alcohol.

When I saw the response that people had to alcohol alternatives and heard the stories behind why people are choosing not to drink alcohol or do things like Dry January, which I did not even know about, it felt like this whole new world was revealed to me. Both of your focuses in your career are things that have opened my eyes literally and figuratively. I’m grateful for the work that you do. I imagine that you hear this quite often. I bet you get a lot of questions where people that don’t know much about light, sleep and alcohol, is that right?

I do. First of all, thank you so much for having me. I stopped drinking in 2010. To be clear, I was not an alcoholic. I was just a socially acceptable drinker. Society would say, “That’s an appropriate amount that you drink.” I would have a glass or two each night on weekends. I might drink more than maybe what is socially acceptable. I had a glass here and a couple of beers there. I was not getting drunk, getting DUIs, waking up in the gutter and doing silly things.

There are people that do have problems with alcohol. What I realized is that it was slowing me down and holding me back with my health and mindset. I got tired of it. I took a break and I thought it would be a 30-day break. In 30 days, I lost 13 pounds, which is extraordinary. It fell off me. I slept better. My skin improved. I was amazed at how many people were saying, “You look good.” All I did was stop drinking toxins from alcohol.

At the time, I auditioned to be a television host on a TV show called SportsCenter on ESPN. I ended up getting that job. I credit the clarity, strategy and energy that I had from not drinking for helping me land that job, which was a dream come true. I heard you say the word alcoholism as you were introducing me. What’s interesting to me is that you don’t have to be an alcoholic for alcohol to compromise your life because it’s sometimes this invisible thing that’s lurking underneath the surface.

A seemingly innocent glass of wine at the end of the night is enough to compromise your sleep a little bit. It’s enough to have you wake up irritable a little bit. It’s enough to have you snap at your kids, husband or wife a little bit. Before you know it, your life may have ordinarily naturally been a 9 out of 10 but now it has dropped down to 7.5. The difference can be profound in your life. I wanted to give that context there.

Alcohol is an attractively packaged poison. Click To Tweet

It almost sounds counterintuitive because it seems like a lot of things that you are listing are the reasons that people drink. It’s so common for people to say they are drinking to take the edge off, help themselves fall asleep, feel less stressed and cope with life. It also reminds me of something that I saw on Twitter, which was a question about sleep during the time of the pandemic. People are having a dialogue around how much their sleep has changed during the pandemic. I wonder if there’s a correlation between that and the rise in alcohol. I’m not sure statistically. Did alcohol go way up to drinking? Did people start drinking more during the pandemic?

They did. There are studies out of New York, Minnesota and a few other places in the US where people’s alcohol consumption, rate of depression, anxiety and alcohol-related deaths went up. It’s pretty frightening. In relation to sleep, alcohol is a huge contributing factor to poor sleep. When you drink alcohol in the last three hours before sleep, you are putting your liver to work essentially to break down the toxins that you have fed it.

Your body is now not in a restorative state. It’s now in a working state. While it’s true that many people anecdotally say that a glass of wine or a drink or two at the end of the day helps them to fall asleep, that is true because it makes them drowsy. The quality of their sleep is severely compromised to the extent that they will wake up and feel tired and lethargic even if they have had 7 or 8 hours of sleep, which is generally regarded to be the amount of time that human beings should sleep.

Alcohol will put you to sleep but it will also make you feel tired, lethargic, irritable, anxious and stressed, which leads you to want to drink more of the very product that creates stress, anxiety, irritation and frustration. It’s a vicious cycle. The other thing that went up was screen use. People, during the pandemic, are looking at screens in increasing amounts. I’m wearing a pair of my Blue Light Blocking Glasses.

People are becoming aware of the danger of staring into a screen all day. Awareness certainly went up. People are using Blue Light Blocking Glasses, whether it’s with an orange lens or a clear lens. That went up. For those people who were not aware of the dangers of blue light and who were staring into their screen, it’s incredible. Macular degeneration in the eyes, stress and headaches, all increased during the pandemic.

They have been increasing for many years but especially so during the pandemic as people stayed at home, got onto screens more and drank more. You asked me at the beginning of our chat here about the companies that I create. In the companies that I create, I help people sleep better and reduce or quit alcohol. That’s because I wanted to sleep better and I found a way. I wanted to get off alcohol or at least reduce it and I found a way.

Those are important missions and I’m sure you have research to back this up, one of the top 2 or 3 issues that people face. When I hear about people that are struggling, it’s either they are feeling some emotional challenge like burnout, anxiety, stress or depression. They are struggling to sleep and maybe with their weight, which you have all mentioned. It seems like there are a lot of tie-ins. There are so many links to these things.

Also, it’s what you said about being a socially acceptable drinker. I’m curious about that in terms of you are saying how much of a difference one drink of alcohol makes. Can you talk more about that and what you found? I want to hear more about your story in that. If you were casually drinking, how much were you drinking for it to make that much of a difference when you stopped entirely? That’s an incredible change that you went through.

I grew up in Australia. Australia has a supportive drinking culture where you are supported and encouraged to consume alcohol. I refer to alcohol as attractively packaged poison, just so you understand. You see where I am on the spectrum now. It’s poison. You are pouring toxins down your throat. It’s plain and simple. There’s no other way to look at it. That’s the reality. They are the facts. It’s culturally accepted.

In Australia, when you are at the dinner table as a child watching your parents have a nightly drink or a beer, then you say, “Mommy or daddy, can I have a sip?” They go, “No, little Johnny. You can have a drink when you are older.” At that moment, they are already implanting in your mind that there’s a rite of passage that you get to enjoy this attractively packaged poison when you are 17, 18 or whatever the age they think is appropriate.

MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

Better Sleep: Alcohol is a huge contributing factor to poor sleep.

 

They are already grooming you to adore this thing that we call alcohol. It’s an animalistic, primal and subconscious brain thought that they have implanted into your 10 or 11-year-old self, “When you are older, you will be able to enjoy alcohol.” What happens is we get to 16, 17 or 18. All of a sudden, we are celebrating our birthdays and drinking alcohol. The parents are okay with it.

Our peers are getting drunk at college fraternities where everyone is smiling and laughing as they do this. You get into your early twenties and you might join the workforce. It’s like, “Let’s go for drinks. After work, let’s celebrate with some drinks.” Maybe you are having some romantic relationship and you must have a bottle of wine for a romantic candlelit dinner.

You are seeing sports stars and watching them advertise alcohol. You are watching the Super Bowl commercials and the ads are all hilarious and funny. You have got goofy guys in Coors Light beer commercials. You have got attractive horses and dogs in Budweiser commercials. They are funny and everyone is laughing and saying, “That’s great.” It’s implanting this culture that drinking attractively packaged poison is fun and creates a bond and a connection between people.

It’s ridiculous if you break this down because you can create a bond and a connection, have fun, laugh, be hysterical and live a fantastic life without having to drink the attractively packaged poison. I wanted to share that because culture has been brainwashed with this whole idea. Let me ask you this question. What do you associate champagne with in terms of the feeling? When you think of champagne, what do you think of?

Celebration.

Why do you associate it with celebration?

It’s marketing and brainwashing. Conditioning perhaps is a better term for all those reasons you shared.

Some clever marketer at a champagne company at a point in time said, “We will associate champagne with celebration.” Think about it. What is champagne? It’s sweet-tasting alcohol. What has that got to do with champagne? Nothing. Someone invented the idea that we are now going to associate champagne with celebration. We see professional sports teams win the championship. What do they do? They bring in the bottles of champagne, shake it up, and pop the cork.

They are pouring it over themselves and drinking it as if this is the most amazing day of their life, “We won the NBA championship. Let’s drink some champagne.” It’s enforcing this belief that champagne is fun and celebration. We go along with it. If you break down what champagne is, it’s toxins. That’s all it is. I share this to invite you and our readers to start to look at alcohol through a different lens.

That reminds me of a video that you posted on TikTok of you talking about celebrities and George Clooney specifically. That was the title of the video. I started thinking about how all these celebrities have their alcohol lines or they are hired to be associated with the brands. We see the Kardashians. For some reason, the next person that came to mind were some of the characters from Breaking Bad. People are getting on board with building these whole brands around alcohol, liquor and wine and creating this whole idea around.

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Click To Tweet

It’s such a great overview briefly of what exactly goes through our minds when we see someone who’s attractive, successful and influential and has money, fame, power and all of these things that a lot of us strive to achieve or think that we want. We see them showing their lifestyle with alcohol. That impacts us on levels that we may not even realize.

I thought that was such an important point that you made. As you said, these ideas have been implanted in our brains around alcohol. Do you think that’s a way to make money? Is that at the core of all this as a marketing scheme to get people to spend things on something that they not only don’t need but is not good for them?

It’s all marketing. What you were referencing was George Clooney and Rande Gerber. They created a tequila company and sold it for $1 billion. A very successful brand it was. The marketing around the tequila was George Clooney wearing a black leather jacket and riding a motorcycle, Rande being cool and riding a motorcycle and them catching up, sharing this tequila, smiling and laughing.

The inference there is that cool, successful, handsome and suave people drink tequila and particularly their tequila. What’s the killer? Tequila is a product that we make that is full of toxins and poison. Any amount of it is not great for you. Yet we throw these handsome men around it who have good reputations. Let’s face it. It seems like most people, at least like George Clooney. I have not heard any people who dislike him. You go, “George Clooney drinks attractively packaged poison. That’s for me. I will do that.”

People are increasingly waking up. I hope that celebrities or well-known folks will increasingly get behind alcohol-free products in the future. I have a belief that in twenty years from now, alcohol will be viewed with the same disdain as cigarette smoking now. Some people think I’m crazy to believe that but people’s education and awareness are improving.

You are right because there are so many options coming up now. I have noticed a massive increase at least of companies marketing themselves well about their alcohol-free alternatives. Have you noticed a big shift as well?

There has been an explosion of alcohol-free products. I’m in Australia, my native country, although I have lived in the US for most of my adult life. It’s amazing how many of those alcohol-free brands I’m seeing now in stores and advertised online. That space is exploding to the point where I’m now personally looking to create my own alcohol-free line. I’m not quite sure whether I’m going to do wine, alcohol-free spirits or RTD or ready to drink, which is stuff in cans. I have not quite figured that out yet but I’m inspired enough to be starting the initial stages of getting something like that off the ground. What is your alcohol consumption, if I may ask? What has it been? How has it changed over the years?

Historically, I have not been someone who drinks a lot of alcohol. I go through fluctuations. To be honest, I have been in a period where I was drawn to the taste. As you are talking about wanting to make a new product, I have tried a lot of the alcohol-free options out there because I have realized that it is about the taste and the experience. I don’t care about the buzz. That has never drawn me in.

I like the experience of a cocktail, the taste of wine or beer. Fortunately, there are amazing things being done with cocktails and beer alternatives. The space that I have not found a great alternative to is wine. I tried alcohol-free champagne in 2021 and I was so excited. It was beautiful. It certainly replicated the experience but not the taste. My relationship is I feel drawn to alcohol because I want to experience something.

If it’s at a restaurant and they have an amazing cocktail list, I’m drawn into the flavor combinations. Fortunately, in Los Angeles, there are bars starting to use products like Seedlip. I can get the same experience. I’m excited about that. Based on everything that you are sharing, that’s going to make a big difference for people like me who find themselves wanting to taste something great and feeling like, in the past, it was always tied to alcohol.

MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

Better Sleep: If you’re eating within three hours of sleep, you’re compromising your sleep.

 

For me also being plant-based, my transition away from animal products to plant-based products, a lot of that was, “What can I find that’s going to taste like cheese?” It’s all the innovations that have happened over time that have made it easier for people who were only eating those foods because of the taste or the experience. They now can make a different choice if they would like to. I hope that you are right. Have you found a wine that even comes close or does not taste like grape juice?

The irony is that I rarely drink alcohol-free drinks that are labeled as alcohol-free drinks. I tend to drink soda water, ice and a piece of lime when I’m out to dinner. That always satisfies me. The answer is no. I have not found a great wine alternative yet. Thank you for the tip. I will go and explore one for you and see if I can surprise you with a good-tasting alcohol-free wine. Have you ever noticed a correlation between those occasions where you have had alcohol or eaten poorly and your sleep? Have you noticed a correlation between either of those factors?

It’s interesting because I don’t drink alcohol that frequently. I’m sure that I have but It’s not something that I have given much thought to. I will from now on. It’s food, for sure. I have a lot of food sensitivities. I had a big food sensitivity flare-up based on some choices I made and slept horribly. I woke up in the middle of the night and woke up in the morning feeling awful and inflamed. It’s insane.

One thing I meant to start this talk with because it’s relevant is I’m going to the doctor to get the results of a sleep study. I have had a sleep disorder my whole life and I have been trying to get to the root of it. Now that you are bringing this up, maybe one thing that would aid me is writing down what I’m eating each day and how I feel the next day. Do you feel like that is a good avenue for people to make the connection? Does it have a ripple effect? Does what you eat impact you for days?

I can speak to how it impacts your sleep and the quality of your sleep. There are a few things. If you are eating any amount of food in the last three hours before you intend to fall asleep, you are compromising your sleep because your body has to digest the food that you have consumed. What time do you fall asleep?

It’s a controversial answer. I usually go to sleep between 1:00 and 2:00 AM Pacific time.

That’s fine. Everyone has different sleep patterns. There’s no right or wrong in terms of the time that you go to sleep. However, there are ways that you can optimize your sleep. Let’s say you go to sleep between 1:00 and 2:00. You should not be eating after 10:00 PM at all and drinking alcohol at all. If you were going to drink alcohol, you are better off having alcohol for breakfast, getting it out, and giving your body twelve hours to get it out of the system than you are drinking it within a few hours of sleep, as crazy as that sounds. You were talking about food. Think about it.

When we eat food, what does our body do? It goes to work to digest that food and break it down. Why would you want to put your body to work three hours before going to sleep at a time when your body is ready to repair, restore and relax? It’s insanity. It’s zero food within three hours of sleep and zero alcohol within twelve hours of sleep, which means having wine for breakfast. Have it with your corn flakes. Honestly, as crazy as that sounds, you are better off doing that because you have got 12 to 16 hours to let the body get it out of the system before going to sleep.

It’s ridiculous, which is why I’m such a huge proponent of living an alcohol-free lifestyle. To speak to the types of foods, I had a meeting with one of my coaches. I have a business called Alcohol-Free Lifestyle, which helps people to reduce and quit alcohol. One of my coaches is based here in Brisbane, Australia. She coaches a lot of my clients. We went out to a Vietnamese restaurant. It was a beautiful meal but it was spicy and quite heavy. Afterward, we said, “Let’s go out for sugar-free ice cream.” We walked up the road and they had about sixteen flavors. I said, “Can I have the sugar-free one?” They went out the back and brought the sugar-free out.

We sat down and ate that. I went back and went to sleep. We ended up staying up late. It was not that late. The meeting finished at 9:00 PM. I was finishing my meal and the ice cream at 9:00 PM. I went home, and I was in bed, falling asleep at 9:30. That’s not great. I did not do a good job, and because of that, I woke up in the morning not feeling exhausted but noticeably lethargic compared to previous mornings where I finished my meal around 6:30 and fell asleep around 9:30. You can see how the timing of dinner and the type of food can impact your sleep.

You don't have to be an alcoholic for alcohol to compromise your life. Click To Tweet

It’s similar to caffeine and coffee. I’m curious how you feel about that. Are there correlations between that and alcohol? You are talking about, “If you are going to drink, drink twelve hours before you go to sleep.” It reminds me of some of the parameters that people give around caffeine and making sure that you don’t have it too close to bedtime.

Coffee is a stimulant. Caffeine is a stimulant. Eight hours before sleep is when you should have your last coffee. If you are going to go to sleep at 9:00 PM, you should not be drinking after 1:00 PM. I would encourage you to make a steadfast rule that you do not drink any caffeine in the afternoon. As soon as 12:00 noon rolls around, that’s it. It’s banned. You are not allowed to drink coffee.

There will be millions of people all over the world who will swear that they have coffee after dinner. It’s part of their routine and ritual. They fall asleep fine. That may be the case. They may fall asleep fine but the quality of their sleep is going to be severely compromised. There is no way in the human world that we occupy that the stimulant of caffeine is not going to compromise your sleep quality. You might be able to fall asleep fine having a cup of coffee or alcohol but the quality of your sleep is going to be compromised, which is why you wake up often feeling tired, lethargic and irritable.

That’s incredibly important because it feels like people are often so committed. This could be said about alcohol, food and pretty much all of the things that you have been talking about. It’s looking for ways to justify the behavior despite the advice to do things differently. I imagine you have come up against that a lot in your work. I’m curious. Why do you think that is? Why do you think people are so stuck on their behaviors or grasping onto their habits even if they find all of this evidence or hear other people encouraging them to shift things? Why are they holding onto them so tightly?

We are human beings. We like to avoid pain and run towards pleasure. There’s resistance there to breaking a habit. Science shows it takes 66 days to break a habit. There’s a resistance often all the way through that, “It’s what I have always done.” If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always got. In many cases, it’s some of the things that we talked about like irritability, poor skin, fogginess or tiredness.

I did not make the rules. It’s whoever you believe up there, God or spirit. He or she made the rules. I’m just the messenger. Science and anecdotal evidence is pretty clear as well as to what the gold standard of sleep is and how to live a healthy life. We have clever marketers who make us believe that if we wear certain clothes or drink certain products, then we will feel a certain way and feel connected, part of a tribe and so forth.

On sleep, it might be interesting to know that judges in the United States tend to give defendants longer sentences the day after switching to Daylight Saving Time in the spring compared to other days of the year. Think about Daylight Saving. Most of the world has Daylight Saving. When the clocks spring for Daylight Saving Time on that morning, sentences for defendants are much harsher. Why is that? It’s because the judges are irritable, tired and pissed off. They are like, “You get 5 years instead of 3.”

The other thing is that they did this study in 2014. In the days following Daylight Saving Time where the clocks move forward, the risk of you having a heart attack increases by 24% compared to other days during the year. When the clocks go back and we gain an extra hour in the fall, your heart attack risk falls by 21%. Why is that? It’s because when you lose an hour, you get one hour less of sleep on that morning. You are more tired, irritable and cranky.

When you get the extra hour of sleep, you are like, “I got the extra hour sleep.” You are less cranky and irritable. It makes sense. They did this other insane study. It was in a town outside of Seattle, Washington where they changed the school start hours by 50 minutes. They moved the start of school from 8:20 until 9:10. School used to start at 8:20. They moved it back 45 minutes or so to 9:10. They had a remarkable decrease in teen car crashes in the year after they moved that back.

Think about it. All these teens are in their final year of school. They are driving cars to work. They are tired. They crash the car. As soon as they moved the start time by 45 minutes, the number of teen car crashes dropped dramatically. This is not coincidental. There is so much evidence to support that if we are not sleeping the way that nature intended us to sleep, the quality of our life is severely compromised, the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.

MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

Better Sleep: Alcohol will put you to sleep, but it’ll also make you feel tired, irritable, and anxious, which just leads you to want to drink more of the very product that creates those stresses.

 

Poor sleep has been linked to obesity, cancer, diabetes, depression and anxiety. The evidence is clear. It’s not just one study in one year. There have been multiple studies over many years. It’s focusing on your sleep, wearing a pair of Blue Light Blocking Glasses to block out as much of that artificial blue light from your screens as possible, ensuring that you are not eating within a three-hour window and ensuring that the first thing in the morning when you wake up, you are exposing your body to natural sunlight.

The natural sunlight hits the receptors in your skin and sets your circadian rhythm or internal body clock to say, “This is daytime. This is wake-up time. Let me flood with daytime hormones.” Sixteen hours later, your body is going to naturally start turning on the melatonin faucet because you have exposed yourself to that sun first thing in the morning. These little things and amendments you can make can completely transform your appreciation of life.

That leads me to a question I have about marketing. With my explorations and fascination with sleep, I’m someone who gets all of these sleep gear like shades for blocking out the light, different things I can wear on my face, sleep masks and a noise machine, which has been a game-changer. I got a weighted blanket, which has been a big deal for me. I feel like so much in my life is setting myself up for sleep and the whole ritual that comes along with it.

I was watching all these videos on TikTok about the company called Hatch. It’s a light where you can set up your whole ritual. It has noises built into it and meditations. All these people are talking about how much of a difference it has made. You can go down this whole rabbit hole and buy all of these things but I’m curious how much you need to buy versus how many are shifts in your routine. That also brings me back to a question about marketing.

With everything that you know about marketing and how that has worked against us, how has that helped you go through leading your own companies? We need to market things to get the word out about it. Has that influenced the way that you market the work that you do and the products that you sell and figuring out, “Are you going to make more things? Do people need them?” Versus creating more of a basic offering that is most important to somebody’s routine?

As it relates to sleep, I have a sleep company, Swanwick Sleep. We produce these Blue Light Blocking Glasses, affectionately known as Swannies. I’m wearing a pair of them with the orange lens. We started this business in 2015 at a time when not many people knew about the benefits of Blue Light Blocking Glasses as it relates to sleep. To give context, the reason why you wear these glasses with the orange lens is to repel artificial blue light from your computer screen or TV screen, microwave light, refrigerator light, bathroom light and reading light.

If you are exposed to that light at night, it’s tricking your body and brain into believing that it’s daytime, so you don’t produce as much melatonin, which shows up as you not being able to sleep as well. We produce these glasses to encourage people to wear them in the last hour before they go to sleep so they can block that artificial blue light that might be stimulating them and compromising their sleep quality. That was a mouthful.

You can imagine trying to market these things, educate people and explain these things in 2015. If I said, “Do you understand what shoes are?” You go, “Yes, I understand shoes.” If said, “Do you understand alcohol?” You say, “Yes, I understand alcohol.” “Do you understand food?” “Yes.” Do you understand orange lens and Blue Light Blocking Glasses that block the artificial blue light from your computer screen, which help you sleep? That’s a lot more challenging.

From a marketing point of view from Swanwick Sleep, our sleep company, we have been trying to find the right balance between educating people as to what they can do to sleep better that do not involve our product while also inviting them to use our product if they are not going to do the things that we are encouraging them to do that don’t involve our product. For example, the absolute best thing that you can do for your sleep is at nighttime, live your life by candlelight. It’s never to use a computer screen and electronics. It’s not to turn on a light bulb.

When the sun goes down, you light candles, sit in your home, wherever that is, and live your life by candlelight because flame from a candle or fire does not compromise melatonin production. However, your bathroom light, kitchen light, microwave light and refrigerator light do compromise your melatonin production. Here’s the thing to answer your question. You don’t need my product. You don’t need to wear Blue Light Blocking Glasses. You turn off all the lights in your home, live in the dark or light a candle or two. You will sleep great.

Alcohol is the only drug where you have to justify why you're not consuming it. Click To Tweet

The likelihood that you are going to turn off all those lights, light candles and live your life by candlelight is pretty small, I’m going to imagine. What’s the next best thing you can do? Block as much artificial light at night as possible. Even though accusers might say I’m biased, the easiest thing you can do to block the blue light, in my opinion, is to wear protection. That is to wear a pair of Blue Light Blocking Glasses. I’m biased. I don’t want this to be an infomercial. That’s not my intention.

We have scientifically-proven lenses in our glasses. There’s the University of Washington and Harvard University. It has gone through independent studies. Our glasses do what we say that they do and that is it blocks the artificial blue light that is guilty of completely messing with your sleep. I hope that answers your question. It’s us trying to find the right balance between marketing and saying, “You don’t need our glasses.”

Stop drinking alcohol in the last three hours before sleep and stop eating food. Live your life by candlelight. Don’t look at screens. Eat well in the day. You don’t need our product. Assuming that you are not going to do any of that stuff or at least some of it and you are going to watch TV at night, look at your phone and brush your teeth in the bathroom with the light on at night, then wear these glasses because these glasses will help you sleep better.

I can attest to that. It has also impacted me in another way, which is I feel like when I wear my glasses, I become more aware of my surroundings. I see the way the light changes, so it immediately shifts what I’m viewing. I also see the connection between what I’m doing. It’s like, “I’m putting on the glasses because I’m using my device before bed.” I love to read before I go to sleep but I also prefer to read on my iPad because of all the functionality and accessibility.

The blue blockers are my way, to your point, of being able to do something that I enjoy. I could go get an actual book, light a candle, and read by candlelight but am I going to do that at this point with how I’m interacting in the modern world? Probably not. An incredible thing to think about is our whole routine. For me, it’s putting on the glasses and thinking, “What decision do I want to make next?” It’s a trigger for me, “Do I want to be on my phone? Do I need to read a book on my iPad? Should I pick up an actual book?”

I start to become more aware simply by putting them on. It’s the same thing for the morning too. I have gotten in the habit. It has helped me feel like I’m easing into my day differently. It feels less abrupt. I like the sun. I keep my windows open in the morning so that the sun will come in and help me wake up. I also feel like a lot of times, I do get on my computer or phone earlier than I would like to. I’m not at a point yet where I have conditioned myself not to use the devices, which I imagine comes up as well.

There’s so much advice, “Try not to use your phone, computer or devices within 30 minutes or 1 hour of waking up.” That’s ideal for me but, to your point, that’s not always the situation. Sometimes I have something urgent that I need to check on or I have not woken up early enough to give myself that space. That’s the complexity of this time we live in. It also ties into your point about how our society responds to sleep. We are in a time where we are encouraged not to rest.

We are encouraged to be on our devices, work and communicate all the time. If we think of how much our lives are on these devices, I don’t think we are being set up to be away from them. I agree that the very least you can do is put on a pair of glasses to help you sleep and think differently. Since I’m thinking about routines, you were bringing up rituals before, especially in the context of alcohol. You were sharing about some events that you have done. You have done some traveling.

I’m curious about two things. The first is I believe you were saying that you had your own event in Austin, Texas or you were participating in one. How does alcohol play a role for you as a guest at events but also as a host of events and navigating the conditioning that many people have about expecting there to be alcohol? It’s being passed around. Everybody seems to be doing it. There’s a lot of pressure or expectation there. How have you navigated and shifted that?

To be clear, I had an event in Austin, Texas at the Hyatt Regency on Lady Bird Lake. It was called the Alcohol-Free Lifestyle Wellness Weekend. I don’t think there was an expectation from participants that I would be providing alcohol and that alcohol would be prevalent. We had people fly in from all over the country. We had a two-day workshop. It was fun. We went on a hike around Lady Bird Lake. We had speakers come in and talk about relationships, healthy habits, mindsets, conscious communication and things like that. There was not an expectation that alcohol would be present there.

MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

Better Sleep: You can create a bond and live a fantastic life without having to drink the attractively packaged poison.

 

That’s because I have set the expectation and that is you can go to conferences and have a great time being alcohol-free. We intentionally took the participants out to dinner at night to a restaurant where alcohol was flowing with all the other restaurant guests and ordered soda water, ice and a piece of lime and had a meal. We have them experience what it’s like to go out with a big group of people, have dinner and not order alcohol. I’m sure the restaurant owner was disappointed in us because the tab was not nearly as much as he or she would have hoped.

It’s getting people into that experience of even going out on a date or being asked out on a date if you are a woman and the man says, “Let’s meet for a drink.” That’s a common date suggestion, “Should we meet for a drink?” We coach our clients on what to say and do when they end up going for the date. It’s very easy, casual, and simple even though it might not feel easy, which is, “I don’t drink. I’m alcohol-free. To let you know, I don’t drink but I would be happy to meet you for a daytime walk, coffee or tea. If we do meet for a bar, just so you know, I will be drinking soda water. I would love to meet you.” It’s that stuff.

We help people create the expectation there, not just for themselves but also for whoever they are going to meet. The idea here is that you can have as much fun if not more being completely alcohol-free because you are clear. The depth of conversation is far greater when you are clear from alcohol. The connection, intimacy, bond, fun and feeling are enhanced from being alcohol-free. Once people have buy-in on that concept and understand that, then it becomes this. How do we give them the confidence to be able to go out and practice that?

How do we put them in practical situations where they do go to a family function, everyone is drinking, and they are the only one who’s not? How do we get them to be lighthearted and playful about it versus, “I’m the only one who’s not drinking.” Lightheartedness is something that we coach throughout all of our clients, which is, “I’m not drinking at the moment. I’m going to get drunk on this soda water.” It’s making fun of yourself. Where people get stuck and get themselves into trouble is where they put out a perception that their life is boring or dull because they are not drinking. That’s the fear.

The fear is that they will be boring or dull if they stop drinking, or that other people will think that they are boring and dull if they are not drinking. That’s the perception. If you are going into every social function, whether it’s a conference, a family function or a date, and you are like, “I’m alcohol-free. I’m not drinking. I’m taking a break for a while. I have not drunk in two years but let’s get drunk on this soda water. I’m going to have fun on this.” The other person or other people don’t care because the only thing they care about is, “Are you having fun? Are you chill? Are you fun to be around?” That’s it.

As you are sharing that, I’m thinking about how it’s the desire to have fun but it’s also the desire to escape discomfort. A lot of people say, “I need liquid courage.” How do you coach people around their habits of drinking to escape uncomfortable feelings, awkwardness or their confidence and associate alcohol with numbing themselves so that they can handle a certain situation or a feeling that they are going through?

There are a few things that we coach. One of the things that we did at our conference was a silent disco where we gave everyone headphones and played music. We had a facilitator who was leading us in it. We did this as the sun was going down over Austin, which was beautiful. Imagine a whole bunch of 30s, 40s and 50-something men and women dancing to silence. They were dancing. Everyone was listening to music with their headphones. Observers walking by were like, “What the hell are those people doing?”

That exercise is designed to get us into our bodies and get us past that initial resistance because everyone has initial resistance in the first 2 or 3 minutes of dancing in a silent disco with no alcohol and liquid courage. It’s like, “People are going to watch me dance and I’m going to move.” People do have that resistance, but after 2 or 3 minutes, as you get into your body, start to get that feeling, dance and people are looking, you start to feel more comfortable. By the end of it, people were jumping up and down, doing tiger crawls across the ground, holding hands and all kinds of stuff.

People were saying afterward that was the first time that they had danced without any alcohol. Is that not crazy? Can you imagine that? It was the first time that they had danced without alcohol because they needed alcohol to loosen up and move their body. That’s crazy to me. To answer your question, we do a lot of things around leaning into initial resistance and getting in touch with our bodies. We give scripts that you can rehearse if someone says, “Why are you not drinking?” They are not these forced scripts where it’s having to justify why you are not drinking. It’s these fun and playful responses.

Think about this for a moment. Alcohol is the only drug where you have to justify why you are not consuming it. You have to give a reason. People demand an explanation, “Why are you not drinking alcohol?” If you said to someone, “I have stopped taking heroin or crystal meth,” people are like, “That’s a shame.” It’s the only drug where you got to justify it. They are like, “Have one drink. You will be fine.” “I don’t want one.” It’s insane. That’s cultural conditioning doing its worst.

Human beings like to avoid pain and run towards pleasure, which is why there's resistance to breaking a habit. Click To Tweet

That came up when I had mentioned the videos I put out about some of the alcohol alternatives. I was amazed and intrigued by the responses that people had, “Why would you drink something if it did not have alcohol in it?” That was one of the most common questions, “What’s the point of something if I can’t get drunk?” They were not only expressing these questions and making fun of people who don’t drink but they were also saying it so confidently because of your point that it’s more common to drink than not to drink.

If you don’t drink, people wonder, “Are you pregnant? Are you an alcoholic? Is it religious?” You do have to justify it or you stand out in a way. This is the reason why alcohol alternatives are so amazing because sometimes you don’t even have to explain. Do you find that to be the case too, where people would rather hold something in their hands so that they don’t have to tell someone they don’t want to drink? Do you feel like a lot of people are looking for opportunities to talk about their reasons?

Most people initially don’t like the idea of having people ask them why they are not drinking but then they go through my coaching. I have a program that’s called Project 90. We help high achievers, entrepreneurs, investors, realtors and people who are successful in their profession. We help those folks to quit drinking for 90 days and give them a whole bunch of tools that enable them to go to work functions, social gatherings and family gatherings confidently being alcohol-free. When they begin in the first week, they are very nervous and hesitant.

By week 2 and week 3, we have them do and practice some exercises. After 30 days or so, they are like, “I don’t drink.” They are proudly telling people that they don’t drink. It’s no big deal. I have a podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts called Alcohol-Free Lifestyle. Most of the guests there are graduating clients of mine. On day one, when they enroll, they go, “There’s no way in the world I am going to be on your podcast. I am a private and confidential person. I don’t want anyone knowing that I’m doing this course because people will think that I have got a problem and I’m an alcoholic.”

Sometimes they say, “I have not even told my wife or husband.” Most of them tell their spouse but some of them are so paranoid about what people are going to think if they are doing a quit-drinking program. They are private and confidential. By day 70, they are saying, “How do I get on the podcast? Do people who graduated get to be on the podcast?” It’s so fascinating. Imagine taking a late-40s or early-50s adult who is completely set in their ways and terrified of what their friends and family will think if they are learning how to quit drinking.

Throw them in my quit-drinking program for 90 days. They come out the other end and go, “Put me on the podcast. I want to tell the world.” It’s crazy. You see the transformation, which illustrates to me that their apprehension about what people will think was misguided in the first place because nobody cares that you don’t drink. They care that you don’t have fun or that you are boring to be around if you don’t drink. That’s it. Stop being sheepish and embarrassed and apologizing for not drinking and start owning it.

You don’t also want to be pompous either about it and go, “I don’t drink. I’m so cool.” You don’t want to all of a sudden start to go, “I’m so cool. I don’t drink. Here’s why you shouldn’t drink.” I encourage our clients not to do that because nobody likes that person either. If pressed and asked, “I don’t drink. I quit. I feel great. I lost weight. I sleep better. I like it. Life without alcohol is better for me but you go right ahead. You do your shots and I will do my shots of soda water.” That’s it, the end.

It reminds me a lot of my experience as a vegan. There are certainly some people that want to get on their soapbox about it. I have found over the years that certainly it’s nice to talk about it. People ask but everybody is making their choices for their own reasons. It’s not my job unless asked to tell somebody what they should do. It reminds me of one other thing that I wanted to ask before we start to wrap up. When you are around someone who does not drink, let’s say that you do decide to keep drinking after reading this, which is certainly bringing up a lot of thoughts for me.

This has been thought-provoking and encouraging because it has helped me understand or reflect upon why I even drink in the first place, especially with all of these alternatives or even having soda water. There’s so much coming out to give you another option or you can train yourself to not even need the option in the first place. I think about being around somebody who does not drink. Let’s say you have read this and understand the reasons but the reader is still going to choose to drink. Is there a way that they can be supportive of other people that they are around who choose not to drink? Should they go about their lives?

Be curious in a non-judgemental way. Be like, “I have noticed that you are not drinking. Tell me more about that. It’s something I have been considering or pondering. Will you share with me what your thought process was behind that?” That’s it. It’s pretty simple. You don’t try to make anyone feel bad for their choices. You are supportive or neutral about people’s choices. It’s challenging to be supportive of someone’s choice to get raging drunk every night and get DUIs.

If that person is wanting to change, you can be supportive of that. Likewise, whatever their choice is, you can also be neutral about it. When I say neutral, what I mean is that you could ask questions without judgment, “Tell me about that. I’m curious. I have been thinking about cutting back a little bit. I noticed that you don’t drink. How does that work?” It’s that as opposed to, “You don’t drink but it’s my birthday. Have one.” Do you see the difference?

Yes. That’s an important shift. I wish more people talked about sleep as much as they talk about alcohol. Why don’t we ask people about their sleep schedules? Instead of pressuring them to drink, why don’t we get curious about how other people sleep? I would love to know. I’m thinking, “I want to go out of my way to ask people about how they are sleeping because it is a fascinating subject matter.” It opens up so many interesting conversations.

A lot of people struggle with sleep but because it’s not openly discussed that much, I feel like a lot of people don’t even bring up their sleep challenges or sleep celebrations unless they are struggling or achieving something big. I know your world is full of all these incredible stories of how people’s lives have been changed. What are some of your favorite resources beyond your own for sleep or a favorite knowledge basis? Are there communities where people talk about their sleep for those that want to find more conversations about this?

You already hit the nail on the head, which is to bring up sleep as a conversation topic. I’m going to a dinner with six of my guy friends on the Gold Coast, which is on the East Coast of Australia. I’m going to take my Blue Light Blocking Glasses Swannies with me because I like to wear them towards the end of the night. That is going to elicit a conversation about sleep. I’m sure we will all talk about what we eat and drink and exercise because my friends are very health-conscious and they are into that stuff. Start the conversation with your friends and family.

Relay something that you may have read from this. What starts a conversation is when you are wearing a pair of Blue Light Blocking Glasses because people are like, “What are they?” You start to get into the conversation. People start to feel educated and they want to try them on. You show up to a party or a function with an alcohol-free beverage, or you go to dinner and everyone is ordering drinks and you say, “I will have soda water.”

You allow people to ask you why you aren’t you drinking and practice saying, “I’m taking a break for a while. I’m not drinking,” and getting comfortable with that. Rather than going into a Facebook group and finding communities online, in your world, initiate the conversation around it, practice the things that you read here and have people in your life notice you practicing them. Don’t try to force your new knowledge on people because people tend to be like, “Discover this new thing. You have to read it and do it.” People get like, “Hang on a second.” All you got to do is be the change.

If you lose some weight, if you are wanting to lose some weight, your skin looks better or you are happier, refreshed and more energetic, people are going to notice and ask you, “What’s your secret?” You share it with them and then they go and do that thing. Before you know it, you have influenced your friends, family and community without going out there and telling them what to do. They are doing and making the changes because they are inspired by your way of being.

That’s a wonderful way to end this because it gives you another reason to consider making a shift. It certainly influenced me because I feel energized. When I was looking up your work, one of the things on your website was giving people energy and clarity. You have given me both and inspired me to think differently about this. You have certainly inspired me to wear my glasses every night. Sometimes I find myself going, “I don’t need to wear those tonight,” but now I want to be more intentional about it because I see the ripple effect. I want to be intentional about my food and drinking choices, evaluate it, ask myself more questions internally and open up these conversations.

MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

Better Sleep: There is no way in the human world that the stimulant in caffeine is not going to compromise your sleep quality.

 

To your point, when you have these dialogues with other people, you hold each other accountable, learn through your curiosity and bond with people in a new way. I also love your point about how people don’t care if you drink. They just want you to have fun. That is such a key point. The big thread through here is helping people tap into themselves in newer ways and see the energy, fun and happiness within us. We don’t need to have alcohol to cultivate that. We can make these small shifts in our lives to sleep better and the ripple effect that good sleep has. Thank you for covering all this terrain here.

You are so welcome. Thank you for asking great questions, Whitney and for inviting me into the show. I hope that you sleep better, have a better relationship with alcohol and food and continue living your best life. You are doing a tremendous job. That’s my impression. Thank you again.

Thank you. I’m off to the doctor to find out the results of my sleep study. You have given me food for thought and drink for thought. There’s a discount code that I have for Swanwick. WELLEVATR is a coupon code you can use. I’m a proud affiliate of Swanwick. What is the name of my glasses? I love my Swannies. The specific style in this frame is so light and comfortable.

You have got the Oxford Night Swannies.

You are so right about them being a conversation starter. I feel like people are very curious. I hope that we get to a point where more people wear them and they don’t stand out as much as they currently do. The impact that a small decision like that can make on your life is pretty amazing. I hope that the reader has learned a lot and contemplated their life. I wish you all the best with how you feel during the day and especially at sleep. I hope you sleep well whenever you sleep next. Thanks, James for being here to share all these wonderful tips and perspectives.

You are so welcome. Thanks for having me.

This episode is sponsored by Zencastr. Visit zencastr.com/pricing to try it out for free. And when you’re ready to up level, enter the code “wellevatr” to receive 30% off your first 3 months of the Pro plan!

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About James Swanwick

MGU 320 James Swanwick | Better Sleep

James Swanwick is an Australian-American investor, entrepreneur, speaker and former SportsCenter anchor on ESPN. He is the creator of the Alcohol Free Lifestyle, which helps people change their relationship to alcohol; the host of the podcast, “Alcohol Free Lifestyle”, creator of “Project 90”, which helps high achievers get lifetime power over alcohol, and creator of blue-light blocking glasses Swannies by Swanwick Sleep, which improve your sleep.

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