Meet James: our co-founder, sleep expert and VP of Content and Media
Updated: 3 days ago
You might have seen James, ‘The Sleep Geek’, on the BBC, Channel 4 or ITV. Or, if watching TV's not your thing, perhaps you’ve read about him in Forbes, Men’s Health UK or The Huffington Post. Ok, we’ll stop showing off now, but we just couldn't be prouder of the work that James has been doing to spread awareness for sleep issues.
After struggling for years with insomnia himself, James knows exactly how overwhelming it can feel. He’s since spent years becoming one of the UK’s most trusted and effective sleep practitioners. Some have even called him the "God of sleep”!
So James, tell us about your journey to becoming a sleep expert:
I am a poor sleeper myself and always struggled to sleep. For me, there was an irony to my poor sleep because I was the third generation of my family to be involved in the bed and mattress industry. Whilst running an online sleep retailer called We Love Sleep we employed a sleep expert, who was, to be blunt, horrible. He was really patronising to poor sleepers, often blaming them for their issues. He also had a very prescriptive approach, based on how he slept. Overall, the way he talked about sleep was poorly thought out. I strongly felt that poor sleepers deserved better.
This led me to train as a children’s sleep practitioner and then go on to do additional training in adult sleep. I started working as a practitioner and educator within organisations and sports teams and found I was very good at helping people understand sleep as a whole, as well as understand how they could get better sleep. All of this without pills! Instead, through small and simple (yet effective) changes to behaviours, mindset and sleep environments.
This ability to talk about sleep in everyday language meant that I became a popular choice for TV and Radio work, which has meant I have filmed a 3 part tv series called The Secrets of Sleep for Channel 4, appeared on the likes of BBC Breakfast, This Morning, The Gadget Show, Football Focus, Sky Sports and also national and local radio.
What made you want to join the Beingwell family?
There were a couple of drivers in becoming part of Beingwell. Sleep doesn't operate in a silo and it is closely connected to other parts of our wellbeing; like movement, eating well and our mental and emotional health. So, our plan was to find some like-minded people to work with in these areas. In addition to this, the organisations and sports teams I worked with were asking for other wellbeing content that was similar to what I delivered (simple and easy to understand/implement).
Kelly (my wife and business partner) and I found it quite difficult to find someone who met these criteria in wellbeing. Solutions were often complicated, ineffective, expensive and difficult to stick to. We met Bernard and there were clear similarities in how we wanted to improve the wellbeing solutions being offered to both organisations and individuals.
What excites you most about Beingwell's vision?
I love that we are trying to make wellbeing content, services, products and interventions more affordable and more easily available. That we want to create an offering that is for everybody, not just those who are highly motivated to improve their wellbeing. Oh and also that we want to take it all over the world to help as many people as possible.
Let’s learn a bit more about you! What are you up to outside of work hours?
I spent some time in my younger years at college in America so I am a big fan of all this Americana. From the songs of Bruce Springsteen, to the books of John Stenbeck, to taking in the plays of Arthur Miller and Lin Manuel Miranda. I often inflict my love of the States on the family by making them eat Philly Cheesesteaks or watch some Philadelphia Eagles.
Kelly and I also love a good mooch, wandering around a new place with no real purpose in mind - just exploring and trying new things. I love live football, whether it is watching our Oliver on a Sunday, or visiting the New York Stadium to watch my boyhood club Rotherham United with my friends. There is something intensely relaxing about football, the repetition of watching a ball being booted about and a chance to forget about the world for a bit and shout, scream and cheer.
What advice would you give to those who are struggling to sleep?
Try and take the stress out of sleep. I find that when we understand who we are as sleepers, what our sleep needs are and what our sleep type is then the simple science of sleep becomes easier to think about. Once we see how our lifestyle impacts our sleep then we can start to think about how we put the small changes to our behaviours, mindset and sleep environment in place. It is really important to remember that you might be a poor sleeper, but one thing you are brilliant at is being tired, so you don’t need to worry about how you will get through tomorrow. You always do, and whilst struggling to sleep, you do some amazing things.
What's your favourite thing about helping people with their sleep?
The difference that sorting out their sleep makes to their lives. I had one lady who was only getting 2-3 hours a night, bringing up her daughter on her own and, like many poor sleepers, had tried everything. She’d done everything she thought she could to get better sleep. We had a chat, I suggested some changes and gave her a sense of perspective … and she improved her sleep massively. She passed her driving test which she had been trying to do for years and was just better in every sense. The messages I got from her telling me what a difference she had made, and how it had changed her life was the best feeling and the reason why I do what I do.
What's your personal motto?
Ooo I love a motto, I am sure Kelly has shared our family motto, be a tortoise, not a hare. I often talk about ”practice makes happy” (I pinched that one from Ross Burbeary at Rotherham United) and as a fan of Friday Night Lights I try and stick to Coach Taylor’s refrain “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” is probably the one that underpins my life more than any other.
We couldn’t be more excited to share James's sleep expertise with you and to help you get some better night’s sleep. To get started, why not read the Truth about naps here.