kirk parsley sleep

The Benefits of Optimizing Your Sleep – Dr. Kirk Parsley on Revolution Health Radio, Hosted By Chris Kresser

Check out the Revolution Health Radio Podcast Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Many NAVY Seals have poor health, primarily due to a lack of sleeo
  • Sleep drugs, like Ambien, don’t actually stimulate real sleep – it’s more of a sedation
  • If you were to get 9 hours of sleep a night: “You wouldn’t have probably 70 percent of the problems you have”Kirk Parsley
  • Adequate sleep improves mood, cognitive performance, sex hormone levels, and motivation (and decreases inflammation)


Books Mentioned

  • Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker
    • Kirk calls Dr. Walker and this book “brilliant”

Dr. Kirk Parsley‘s History with the SEALs

  • Kirk joined the SEAL teams after high school. After leaving the SEALs, he went on to attend college and medical school.
  • After med school, Kirk began working with the SEAL teams as a sports medicine and orthopedic doctor

Health Problems in the SEALs

  • Kirk analyzed the blood of several of his SEAL patients and found that even though they were young and in shape, many of them had several health problems 
    • 🎧 “Many came to me with a litany of problems they had, which you would expect to hear a 55-year-old burnt-out executive, but you’re hearing them from a 28-year-old Navy SEAL with 6-pack abs. They’re complaining about their motivation, mood, lethargy, poor sleep quality, poor sex drive, poor mood control, poor attention, poor cognitive functioning, and poor memory.” – Kirk Parsley
    • “They all had low testosterone, they all had low growth hormone… Pretty much all anabolic behavior was increased, all catabolic was decreased, oxidation was increased, and inflammation was increased.” – Kirk Parsley

Making SEALs Healthier By Improving Their Sleep

  • In the midst of researching sleep, Kirk advised his SEAL patients to do the following:
    • Stop taking Ambien and drinking alcohol
    • Supplement with DHEA and Zinc – Why?
      • “Zinc is an aromatase inhibitor, and DHEA is a dedicated pathway for testosterone and pregnenolone” – Kirk Parsley
  • What’s wrong with sleep drugs like Ambien?
    • These drugs don’t actually stimulate real “sleep” – it’s more of a “sedation”
  • Kirk adds on the above:
    • “Over the course of about six months, all their biomarkers were coming into what you would expect them to look like, and the vast majority of their symptoms were going away”
    • “I did get 100 percent of people off of Ambien who wanted to get off of Ambien, and they all felt, looked, and performed a lot better”

Many SEALs Have Low Vitamin D3 Levels

  • Kirk looked at the Vitamin D3 levels of many SEALs and found that they were quite low – Why?
    • SEALs tend to work at night and sleep during the day (and vitamin D3 levels are increased with sun exposure)
      • (And if they do go outside during the day, they’re usually covered head to toe in camouflage)

Melatonin Optimization

  • For background, melatonin (the hormone that signals to your body it’s time for bed) is better at initiating sleep than maintaining sleep
  • Kirk further optimized the sleep of his patients by…
    • 🎧 “I supported the melatonin production pathway by giving them L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan, which are both precursors to melatonin. Those actually, with the help of vitamin D3 and magnesium, become serotonin, and serotonin can become melatonin.” – Kirk Parsley

Don’t Skimp on Sleep

  • After giving his SEAL patients a combination of L-tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptophan, vitamin D3, and magnesium, they were able to improve their sleep
    • Many also reported seeing the world in a brighter and more vivid light:
      • Their mood and motivation went up
      • Sex hormones increased
      • Inflammation went down
      • Kirk adds:
        • “Your cognitive functioning increases drastically when you get a good night’s sleep”  – Kirk Parsley
  • Remember: The SEALs Kirk was advising ate a healthy diet and exercised daily, but still had health problems as they weren’t getting enough sleep – good sleep isn’t something that can be neglected!
    • “But you have to keep in mind, these guys were already exercising and well… So, if your life’s a mess, and all you do is start sleeping… it’s definitely the easiest and best lever to pull that’s going to have the biggest effect” – Kirk Parsley

Why Don’t People Prioritize Sleep?

  • Everyone today is incredibly busy and always hustling, especially entrepreneurs, making it hard to focus on getting adequate shut-eye
  • If you were to get 9 hours of sleep a night: “You wouldn’t have probably 70 percent of the problems you have” – Kirk Parsley
    • “There’s a measurable objective decline in performance that happens with sleep deprivationBut what happens is interesting… People think they’re performing at the same level. So, it’s super deceptive.”
Revolution Health Radio : , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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