Sleep Smarter, Live Brighter: The Science Of Enhancing Productivity With James Swanwick

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT James Swanwickj | Sleep Productivity


Transform your sleep, transform your life. Harness the power of blue light blocking glasses and optimal sleep practices to awaken your full potential. In today’s episode, host Penny Zenker invites a special guest to dive deep into a topic that affects us all: sleep. James Swanwick, an Australian-American investor, entrepreneur, and speaker, is the creator of the alcohol-free lifestyle movement and the innovative blue light blocking glasses known as “Swannies.” James shares how the “Swannies” glasses, scientifically proven to enhance sleep by 12% and increase productivity by 11%, can be a game-changer for those seeking a good night’s rest in our technology-driven world. Throughout the episode, he sheds light on how simple adjustments to your daily routine can lead to transformative changes in your sleep patterns. From the impact of blue light and optimal sleep practices to quality sleep indicators and its transformative benefits, James covers everything that helps individuals get good sleep and a better life. Tune in to transform your sleep routine, boost your productivity, and ultimately, take back time for a more vibrant and fulfilling life.

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Sleep Smarter, Live Brighter: The Science Of Enhancing Productivity With James Swanwick

Sleep Now, Not When You Are Dead

In this episode, we’re going to talk about sleep. We’ve been talking about rest and different ways to be productive by stepping back and away from work. We have our specialist here. We’re going to learn a lot about sleep. James Swanwick is an Australian-American investor, entrepreneur, speaker, and former sports center anchor on ESPN. He’s the Creator of the Alcohol-Free Lifestyle, which helps people to change their relationship with alcohol, and the host of a podcast called Alcohol-Free Lifestyle and Creator of Blue Light Blocking Glasses. They call them Swannies by Swanwick Sleep, which improves your sleep. James, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

Were you the first blue blocker glasses that came out, or do you have your own version of them?

We weren’t the first that came out, but we were the most stylish that came out. We were certainly the most stylish. I’m almost confident we’re the only scientifically proven pair of blue blockers on the market. There are many other brands now, but the University of Washington conducted a scientific study on our glasses in 2018 and showed the people who wore them slept 12% better and reported 11% higher productivity the following day. Ours are cool, fun, and stylish.

I need a pair of those. You have to send some promo information and stuff over here. Before we get into that, let’s hear a little bit about your background and how you got into this. Why is it important to you?

I was in Palm Springs, California, with some friends on a guy’s weekend. We were staying at a nice hotel. We went out to dinner. My friend wore a pair of unsightly orange lens Uvex safety goggles to dinner. I thought to myself, “What’s he doing?” I said to him, “You look ridiculous. You’re making me look ridiculous by association.” He said, “No, I’m trying to block the blue light.” I said, “Block the blue light? What are you talking about?”

He went on to explain that at nighttime, bathroom lights, bedroom lights, kitchen lights, refrigerator lights, speedometer lights, the McDonald’s Golden Arches lights, and all of those artificial lights stimulate our pituitary and pineal gland, which suppresses melatonin release that shows up as disrupted sleep. Like I jokingly said before, “The only problem is that you have to look like a meth chemist to protect your eyes by wearing a pair of safety goggles.”

I had the idea, “Why don’t I create a stylish pair of blue blockers that I would feel comfortable wearing in Los Angeles, California?” That’s where I was living at the time, which is quite fashion and style-conscious. I created a pair of somewhat stylish blue light-blocking glasses, and they took off. On the market at the time, there were ugly, unsightly pairs. We did a cool RayBan-esque style. People wanted it. That was how it began. My sleep was okay, but when I wore the glasses, my sleep was, all of a sudden, good. I bought into the idea. I’d read lots of research studies on it. I’ve become somewhat of a sleep expert in that. I’ve interviewed the world’s top sleep doctors and written papers.

It was because he had them, and you had this idea. It wasn’t that you had a massive sleeping issue, and this resolved it.

I didn’t have a sleeping issue. I didn’t think my sleep was horrible. I would describe it as being about a 7 out of 10 when it could have been a 9 out of 10. When I started wearing the blue blockers, it jumped to a 9 out of 10. I noticed that I was falling asleep quicker and deeper. I woke up feeling refreshed. Fast forward to the modern day, and you may have noticed I’m wearing an Oura Ring. Now, I track my sleep.

I have customers now all over the world. We’ve got about a quarter of a million customers all over the world who’ve bought a pair of glasses. They send us messages all the time with their results on Oura. From when they weren’t wearing the glasses to when they started wearing the glasses, the sleep improvement increased dramatically.

It’s noticeable and indisputable. Scientific studies have proven that and anecdotally from customers all over the world. When you wear a pair of these glasses in the last hour before you go to sleep, it blocks that light. Your body can release melatonin the way nature intended it to release it. That shows up in a great night’s sleep. Don’t wear glasses, brush your teeth in the bathroom light, read a book with the bedside side lamp, and don’t wear glasses. Your sleep is not as good.

You wear them an hour before you go to sleep.

The best thing you can do for your sleep is live your life by candlelight, sit in the dark, and never turn on an electronic light again, but it’s 2023. The next best thing you can do is block blue light with a pair of blue light-blocking glasses. In an ideal world, you’d put the glasses on when the sun goes down, but we don’t live in perfect conditions. I want to be realistic with people because people don’t want to wear them for 3 or 4 straight hours.

I can tell you what I do as the owner of the company and the creator of them. I put mine on about 45 minutes to an hour before I know I’m going to sleep. Don’t take them off, which means I’ve already showered an hour before, brushed my teeth, and done all those things. I’m wearing the glasses. I get into bed with the glasses on. I turn off the bedside light and remove the glasses in the dark.

I don’t want the light, even taking five seconds, because as soon as you stare into the light, the mind and the body mistakenly believe that it’s daytime. Any of that electronic light tricks your body and brain into believing it’s daytime. You don’t release melatonin. I’m wearing these glasses now. As you and I are recording this, where I am in the UK, it’s 12:15. In about three minutes, I’m going to put them on, knowing I’m going to sleep at around 11:00. That’s my way of doing things.

I want people to know how to best use them. That’s fantastic. You might as well put them on now.

I’m putting them on now. They won’t come off until I get into bed.

I’m somebody who tends to wake up in the middle of the night. I have to go to the bathroom. You said, “It helps people to sleep more soundly.” Do you find that people wake up less in that context when they go to bed properly and have the right melatonin released?

I can only give you anecdotal evidence. The answer is yes. People report sleeping through as opposed to previously when they would wake up and go to the bathroom. In relation to going to the bathroom, you can solve a lot of that by not drinking liquids within three hours of bedtime. If you’re going to go to sleep at 10:00, make sure you have your last liquids at 7:00. That can go a long way into ensuring you don’t have to use the bathroom in the morning.

With food, you want to make sure you finish your final meal three hours before sleep because when you eat or drink within that three-hour window, you’re clocking in for the night. You’re sending your body to work to break down and digest the food. We don’t want our body working. We want our bodies clocked off for the night and resting. That’s what sleep is.

With alcohol, you’re better off drinking alcohol for breakfast than you are anywhere close to bedtime if you’re trying to get a great night’s sleep because alcohol is filled with toxins. When you drink those toxins, the liver goes to work trying to get the toxins out of the body. We don’t want the body working as we’re sleeping. We want the body to sleep.

Most people in the modern world will have their glass of wine or two or beer because they think, “It helps me to fall asleep.” The truth is it may well help you to fall asleep, but the quality of your sleep is going to be severely compromised. Oura Ring studies show this repeatedly. I’m just the messenger. People get all angry when I say they can’t.

That’s not everyone’s reaction, but some people get angry because they’re resistant to the idea that they have to give up their glass of attractively packaged poison, which is what I call alcohol. They’ll start fighting me or arguing back like, “I have a glass of wine. It helps me relax. I sleep fine.” I go, “Do you sleep fine? I’d love to see your Oura Ring results and see what fine means to you. How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?” They were like, “Tired and lethargic.” I was like, “There you go.”

Is that the marker if you wake up and you feel refreshed?

It’s a compelling marker. Trust the body.

Are there any other markers that help you to know that you had a good night’s sleep?

How you feel is a huge one. If you’ve been carrying unwanted body fat or weight, sleeping helps you lose that. Another marker is you are losing a little bit of weight. They’ve done a study out of the UK that showed people who sleep well have 33% less visible wrinkles around the eyes. You do appear better looking when you sleep well. That’s another marker because when you sleep well, those wrinkles and that weathered look disappear, and your skin returns to the way nature always intended it to look. People go, “How’s things going?” That’s another benchmark.

If you've been carrying unwanted body fat, unwanted body weight, sleeping really, really well helps you lose that. Click To Tweet

If you’re not desperate to drink coffee within 30 minutes of waking up, that’s another marker. A lot of people wake up, and they’re like, “I need a coffee. I have to have a coffee to start the day.” That’s a sign that you’re not sleeping well because someone who sleeps well wouldn’t be desperate for a cup of coffee. They’d allow 90 minutes to pass, and they might enjoy a cup of coffee rather than needing to have the coffee to get going. If you’ve got energy in the morning, that’s another marker. If you’ve got energy, you feel good, and you’re like, “I’m feeling good.” That’s another benchmark. The opposite of everything I said is another indicator that you’re not sleeping great.

What else do we need to know about sleep? I haven’t asked you yet, but do you think it is relevant and important for us to look at the way that we’re sleeping and make some changes?

Here’s the gold standard of sleep. First thing in the morning, we want to expose ourselves to as much natural sunlight as possible. Our skin has receptors in it. When the sunlight hits the skin, it tells our internal body clock, which is called our circadian rhythm. This is daytime. The body starts to flood with daytime hormones.

Any caffeine within ten hours of sleep will disrupt your sleep. If you’re going to sleep at 10:00 PM, you want to ensure that your last coffee is at 12:00. This is where people start to get angry sometimes. They say, “I have a cappuccino or a coffee after dinner each night, and I sleep fine.” In the universe we occupy, it is a physical impossibility that the caffeine from coffee is not going to disrupt your sleep. It’s not possible. Coffee and caffeine are stimulants. The quality of your sleep will be compromised. I believe you when you say you might fall asleep fine. The quality of your sleep, and by quality, I mean how much time are you spending in the restorative phase? That’s what I’m talking about.

Any caffeine within 10 hours of sleep will disrupt your sleep. Click To Tweet

We need to track it. For somebody to say, “I sleep fine.” If you’re not tracking it, you don’t know that you sleep fine.

I don’t even know what sleep fine means. It’s such a generic term. You might be saying, “I sleep fine.” You could be sleeping at a 5 out of 10 compared to your potential sleep of a 9 out of 10. You accepted your sleep for what it is. If it’s not terrible, you’re like, “It’s fine.” I submit to you. Your whole life can change for the better if you are sleeping the way nature intended you to sleep.

You notice I’ve said that a few times, “The way nature intended.” We live in the modern world. We don’t do anything the way nature intended anymore. We have devices. We’re distracted. We don’t sleep well. We drink too much alcohol. We eat sugary and carbate foods. We’re carrying out extra body fat. There’s food available on every street corner. We’ve got food that we can store in the refrigerator.

Never in human history had we had so much food available to us. Because of that, we eat more than we ever ate for tens of thousands of years. We’re all addicted to screens, myself included. I spend a shocking amount of time on my cell phone each day. I’m aware of it, and I track it. I’m also doing so while wearing a pair of daytime Swanwick glasses with a clear lens to filter blue light. At nighttime, I’m switching over to orange lens glasses to block the blue light.

Morning exercise is better for sleep than evening exercise, according to multiple studies. Sleeping in a cool room between 65 and 69 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal room temperature studies have shown for sleep. That’s a little chilly, but you can rug up. For relaxation, listen to binaural beats for focus. There’s a beautiful mix of theta and beta waves that happen when you listen to binaural beats. That puts the mind into deep relaxation that can support you in getting a good night’s sleep. Invest in a pair of quality blue light-blocking glasses at nighttime to block that artificial light. Ensure that you don’t drink liquids or eat food within three hours. You want blackout curtains. The sun doesn’t wake you up too early in the morning. You want a nice dark room.

You talked about having blinds to make the room as dark as possible. I use a mask as opposed to regular blinds. Is that as good as the dark blinds?

Yes, we have a mask here from my company with a full silk oversized mask. Masks are terrific because you don’t want any light coming in to disrupt you. You want your room to be black anyway. I wear my mask every night because I don’t want to wake up early. I’m in a hotel at the moment, not a particularly desirable one, I must say, or not one with great Wi-Fi, but they’ve got the television light. Even though the television’s off, they’ve got this red light when it’s on standby. You’ve got the air conditioning light and bathroom light, this little light that shines through. It’s horrendous. There’s how much light they think and the alarm clock light.

That’s awful. I hate that one. I always have to put something over it or unplug it.

They’ve done a study that showed that all of this light that lights up the room disrupts your sleep. The body doesn’t understand. The body wants to be in darkness. The body thinks it’s daytime when there’s any amount of artificial light on you. That’s the point I was trying to make. If you’re in a hotel room, turn off the pull-out of the alarm, put it upside down, pull out the television from the electrical cord if you can, wear a mask, and make sure you have nice dark curtains so the light doesn’t wake you up too early in the morning. Make sure the air conditioning unit is down to 65 or 69 degrees. Wear a pair of quality blue blockers and take them everywhere with you.

TBT James Swanwickj | Sleep Productivity

Sleep Productivity: The body wants to be in darkness. It doesn’t understand that light. The body thinks it’s daytime when there’s any amount of artificial light on you.


James, thank you so much for being here. Where can people find more information about you and get ahold of your glasses and a mask?

I’m on Instagram @JamesSwanick. The glasses can be found at or on Amazon. We’ve got sleep products, blue blockers, sleep masks, and earplugs.

Thank you so much for being here, and it is late in the UK.

Thank you, Penny. I appreciate you having me.

Thank you all for being here. We’ve been talking about resting first and making sure that you’re giving that a priority. You can be the best version of yourself. You can be creative, productive in the things you do, and smarter in approaching how you manage your time and what you do with your time. All of that comes from getting a great amount of sleep. We’ve read a lot of great tips here. I hope you’re going to track your sleep. You’re going to get a pair of blue blockers and masks and put these into practice. You can increase your sleep. You can take back time. I’ll see you in the next episode.


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About James Swanwickj

TBT James Swanwickj | Sleep ProductivityJames 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”, and creator of blue-light blocking glasses “Swannies” by Swanwick Sleep, which improve your sleep.




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