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​The Melanie Avalon Podcast Episode # 3 - Dr. Kirk Parsley

Kirk Parsley served as an Undersea Medical Officer at Naval Special Warfare Group One from June 2009 to January 2013. While there, he led the development and supervised the group’s first Sports Medicine Rehabilitation center. He is a former SEAL, and received his Medical Degree from Bethesda, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS) in 2004. He interned in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Balboa Naval Hospital San Diego in 2005 and subsequently completed a Navy residency in Hyperbarics and Diving Medicine in 2006.

Doctor Parsley has been a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine since 2006 and served as Naval Special Warfare’s expert on Sleep Medicine. In addition he is certified in hormonal modulation (Age-Management Medicine). After leaving the Navy he went into concierge medicine and consulting. He continues to consult for multiple corporations, and professional athletes/teams. Doctor Parsley lectures worldwide on sleep, wellness, and hormonal optimization and is currently completing a book on sleep and health optimization.

His philosophy for wellness is simple; in order to optimize our health and get the most out of our bodies and minds, we must live more closely to the way we evolved as a species. He believes that many diseases and disorders that we accept as “inevitable” in modern society are unnecessary complications of poor sleeping habits, living in a toxic environment, eating foods we were not designed to digest, and allowing stress to overwhelm us. His passion is to help his patients and clients achieve the highest quality of life possible, and realize their health, performance, and longevity goals.

Dr. Parsley spends as much of his spare time as possible his three beautiful children (Hayden, Cole, and Harper). He has been a competitive athlete his entire life, and enjoys nearly all outdoor activities and sports.

LEARN MORE AT​:

​www.docparsley.com
insta handle @sleepremedy
https://www.facebook.com/DocParsley
https://twitter.com/docparsley

SHOWNOTES

GET SLEEP REMEDY  Dr. Kirk Parsley's Sleep Remedy: This is the ultimate sleep supplement!! It was developed by Dr. Kirk Parlsey after years of research and experimentation to naturally restore sleep to the sleep-deprived, insomniac Navy Seals. Rather than knocking you out with drugs, this simply provides the necessary neurotransmitters and nutrients in the perfect amounts to naturally support your body's sleep process. Use the code MELANIEAVALON  At Melanieavalon.com/sleepremedy for 10% Off!!

​​2:40 - LISTEN ON HIMALAYA!: â€‹Download the free Himalaya App (www.himalaya.fm) to FINALLY keep all your podcasts in one place, follow your favorites, make playlists, leave comments, and more! And with Himalaya, you can LISTEN TO ​THE MELANIE AVALON PODCAST 24 HOURS IN ADVANCE!! ​

​3:15 - Dry Farm Wines: Use The Link DryFarmWines.com/melanieavalon To Get A Bottle For A Penny!

​4:55 -​ Chilipad: Use this pad to perfectly regulate your sleep temperature! Get rid of shivers, night sweats, everything!! Melanie will NEVER stop using this one!!

5:40 - Dr. Kirk Parsley's History

11:30 - Dr. Parsley's Sleep History : Treating The Seals

24:40 - What Is Sleep?

27:20 - Is Sleep Reality?

29:40 - Can You Hack Yourself For Less Sleep?

31:30 - Do We All Need 8 Hours Of Sleep, Or Is It Intuitive?

34:00 - Sleep Debt

37:45 - Sleep Deprivation and Performance 

45:35 - Are We Naturally Early Morning People? 

57:50 - Do You Need To Sleep Straight Through The Night?

1:02:15 - How Sleep Works (Sleep Pressure And Clearing The Gunk!)

1:04:15 - ATP, Caffeine, & Sleep Cycles

1:10:30 - JOOVV: Use The Link Joovv.com/melanieavalon With The Code MelanieAvalon For A Free Gift From Joovv!

1:12:00 - How Do Common Pharmaceutical Sleep Aids And Antihistamines Work?

1:21:15 - All About Melatonin

1:28:15 - How Does Eating Affect Sleep?

1:36:10 - Melanie's Sleep Hygiene

Carex Day-Light Classic Plus Bright Light Therapy Lamp - 10,000 LUX - Sun Lamp Mood Light: This light is great for mimicking natural sunlight. It's the recommended 10,000 LUX, has different levels of brightness, and raises and tilts so you can get the light projected downward onto you, at a 30 degree angle. I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you work a desk job indoors!

1:38:00 - Coffee And Caffeine 

1:41:30- Coffee Alternatives (Tea, Walking, Nicotine)

1:49:15 - Cold Showers

1:51:15 - Food Sense GuideGet Melanie's App To Tackle Your Food Sensitivities! Food Sense Includes A Searchable Catalogue Of 300+ Foods, Revealing Their Amine, Histamine, Glutamate, Oxalate, Salicylate, Sulfite, And Thiol Status. Food Sense Also Includes Compound Overviews, Reactions To Look For, Lists Of Foods High And Low In Them, The Ability To Create Your Own Personal Lists, And More! 

1:52:00 - CBD For Sleep


Get Melanie's Favorite CBD - Feals - For 50% Off With Free Shipping! It's organic, full spectrum, with an MCT oil carrier! Just go to feals.com/melanieavalon

1:81:00 - Joovv Red Light Therapy And Sauna Treatment 

ANRRI Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses for UV Protection Anti Eyestrain Anti Glare Lens Lightweight Frame Eyeglasses Black Frame, Men/Women: Step 1 of Melanie's night glass sleep routine! They block 90% of blue light, without changing the color of the world around you in the process! You can put them on in the early evening, when you don't want things to look orange (or don't want to look like a biohacking oddity either). 

Uvex Skyper Blue Light Blocking Computer Glasses: Step 2 in Melanie's night glass sleep routine! These will honestly be the best (not even) $10 you could ever spend to enhance your sleep. Put them on a few hours before bed, especially when viewing electronics, and your sleep and life will thank you.

TrueDark™ Twilight Glasses: These are definitely more pricy than the Uvex, so I recommend starting with those, and then "upgrading" later if ya like. These glasses by Biohacked are specifically designed to block the entirety of all wavelengths which might stop melatonin production. You put them on and it's like.... I'm tired. I like to start my evening wind-down with the Uvex, and then transition to these Twilight glasses right before bed.

2:04:15 - Alcohol And Sleep

2:04:30 - Dry Farm Wines: Use The Link DryFarmWines.com/melanieavalon To Get A Bottle For A Penny!

2:04:55 - Should You Worry About Sleep If You Feel Like You're Sleeping Well?

​Chilipad: Use this pad to perfectly regulate your sleep temperature! Get rid of shivers, night sweats, everything!! Melanie will NEVER stop using this one!!

​​EMF Canopy: EMF Protection from Radiation Sophisticated Box Canopy, EMF Shield Swiss Natural Cotton Comes with Free Under Bed Floor Protection. This made a MASSIVE difference in my sleep, and even more, how I feel upon awakening!

Howard Leight Women Earplugs: My favorite earplugs for ladies with small ears! Comfy and effective!

ZIMASILK 100% Natural Silk Sleep Mask: A super comfortable, silky, sleeping mask!

​NICETOWN Truly Blackout Drapes for Living Room, Heavy-Duty Full Light Shading Curtain Set with Black Liner Backing: These curtains are amazing. I researched blackout curtains for soooo long, and am SO happy I found these! They block essentially 100% of the light, and are super thick and luxurious, like hotel curtain! They also have no toxic smell!

2:13:00 - The #1 Factor For Getting Good Sleep

2:20:50 -Meditation And Sleep

2:21:15- What To Do  When You Can't Fall Back Asleep

2:27:05 - How Does Sleep Remedy Work?

2:35:20 - Dr. Kirk Parsley's Sleep Remedy: This is the ultimate sleep supplement!! It was developed by Dr. Kirk Parlsey after years of research and experimentation to naturally restore sleep to the sleep-deprived, insomniac Navy Seals. Rather than knocking you out with drugs, this simply provides the necessary neurotransmitters and nutrients in the perfect amounts to naturally support your body's sleep process. Use The Code MELANIEAVALON At MelanieAvalon.com/SleepRemedy For 10% Off!!

2:35:35 - Instagram Giveaway: Follow @MelanieAvalon, follow @SleepRemedy, Comment Your Favorite Sleep Hack And Tag A Friend To Enter To Win A Bottle Of Sleep Remedy! 

2:37:25 - Can Anyone Fix Their Sleep?

Theme Music by Narek Mirzaei, Artwork by McGregor

TRANSCRIPT

Melanie Avalon:
Hi everybody and welcome to the show today. I hope you are super awake and excited for today's show but if you're not awake we have definitely got you covered. We have an amazing guest today, Dr. Kirk Parsley. Just wait until you hear his resume. Dr. Parsley he is a former seal. He received his medical degree from Bethesda. He interned to be an OB GYN at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. He also served in the Naval residency in the hyperbarics and diving medicine and he's been a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine since 2006. And he served as the Naval special warfare expert on sleep medicine/ and it doesn't stop there he's also certified in hormone modulation and so much more. And he is also the developer of a supplement that I personally have been taking for years and cannot recommend enough. I've been taking it since it had a different name but it is now known as Sleep Remedy so I'm sure we will talk about that in the show as well. But thank you so much for being here Dr. Parsley.

Kirk Parsley:
Thank you for having me on. Thanks for that great intro. I feel like we should probably stop now though because it can only be downhill from there, that sounded really good.

Melanie Avalon:
No. Well the listeners missed the bumps in the road, for listeners I just realized what OB GYN stands for because I couldn't say the word. What does it stand for? Say it again.

Kirk Parsley:
Obstetrics and gynecology.

Melanie Avalon:
So there you go. So if you ever want to know what OB GYN stands for now we know. I've honestly been dreaming probably about this moment no pun intended since I first discovered your, probably actually since I first heard you way, way, way back in the day on Rob Wolf's podcast.

Kirk Parsley:
Rob Wolf yeah that was my first podcast actually. It's actually a really funny story. So, at that time I was the doctor for the seal teams and when the seals would deploy, obviously they were doing combat deployments at the time, so when they would deploy they'd deploy as a team and they would take the whole team and all their families. And they take them to these resorts and they'd have these pre retreats where they would have people come and talk about here are the things you're ... It's really more for the families. These are the things you're going to struggle with when you're gone and here are the resources and all that stuff and they bring in lecturers to help the guys on anything that could help them with their stuff and other families as well.

Kirk Parsley:
And so, Rob was the pinch hitter for the nutrition. He came in and talked about nutrition all the time. I didn't even know what a podcast was honestly. And all these seals were coming to me and talking to me about how I should go on this guy Rob Wolf's podcast. No, I've got to listen to this guy Rob Wolf's podcast because, "He says so many of the same things you say." And I was like, "All right, whatever." And I still never listened to him but he would be lecturing on nutrition. But then about a quarter of his lecture was on sleep and I lectured on sleep in about a quarter of my lecture was on nutrition.

Kirk Parsley:
And so, we just met at one of the events and he's like, "Hey man, I'm a big fan of your stuff." If you know Rob he's just, he's the most gracious guy in the world. He's like, "Hey, I'm a big fan of your work." And I was like, "I don't have any work. What do you mean? What are you talking about? I don't have a book, I don't have a podcast, a blog I don't know what you mean." And then we just hit it off, became friends and then we ended up doing probably a dozen of those and then all sorts of other lectures together he and I would do.

Kirk Parsley:
And so, he was at my house in San Diego because we were doing a gig out there and I can't remember what it was but we're just sitting around my house and he goes, "Oh crap I'm supposed to be doing a podcast right now." And he goes, "You want to come be on my podcast?" And I was like, "Sure," and I still really didn't know what this meant because I hadn't listened to a podcast yet or anything so I really didn't know what I was getting into. And so, we put his notebook computer on the arm of the chair between us and just talked for an hour and a half or something. And I guess that's one of his most popular podcasts for years so it was fortuitous, Forrest Gump, that's how I get through life.

Melanie Avalon:
That's really funny. Yeah I mean I listen to so many podcasts, I mean multiple episodes daily every day since middle school.

Kirk Parsley:
Wow.

Melanie Avalon:
I know yeah I was listening to podcasts that long. But I remember that episode still distinctly.

Kirk Parsley:
Really?

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. It was a good episode.

Kirk Parsley:
And I've actually never heard myself on the podcast, I don't have any idea what we talked about but yeah.

Melanie Avalon:
You talked about sleep.

Kirk Parsley:
I'm guessing that is pretty strong because it's a pretty strong possibility.

Melanie Avalon:
I do remember you talked about how, the takeaway I remember from that episode was that you were working with these seals who just nothing, nothing was working and finally something was working and I found that very motivational. But yeah, I was so impressed by everything that you knew obviously about sleep and everything and since then I've been dying to talk to you so this is a moment for me.

Kirk Parsley:
I'm flattered and I hope I live up to the expectation here, you set the bar really high now you

Melanie Avalon:
You will, you already have. It's all good. All right. So I guess to start things off is there anything you'd like to tell listeners about your own personal history like how you worked with the seals or how you came to become passionate about sleep? Is sleep your main passion or did you just fall into it?

Kirk Parsley:
You'd never know it by hearing your intro. My ambition was actually to be an orthopedic surgeon. Originally, so I was a seal right out of high school. I was actually a high school dropout. I have about a 10th grade education and I joined the Navy to become a seal. That was well before anybody knew what a seal was. There was no celebrity status attached to it at that time. And I just heard that it was the toughest training in the world and I was all physical, no mental, I just thought I was like a really dumb guy because I'd been getting bad grades since I was in the third grade or something and I'd had plenty of teachers tell me how stupid I was so I was pretty sure. And so I'm like, "Well I'm going to do physical stuff." And I was a pretty good football player but I couldn't get into college because I couldn't get good enough grades to get in college.

Kirk Parsley:
So I said, "All right, I'll go do this other really tough training." And also I'm from a really blue collar redneck family and kind of our moral obligation by family standards for everybody to do military all the men at least. So, going into seal training I did that it was actually while I was in the military there was quite a bit of academics in the first couple of years and I did really well at it and I was really surprised and I can probably thank the military for teaching me that I wasn't stupid I just didn't, I didn't know how to learn and I didn't know how to learn academically and they forced the discipline and regimen upon me and I was pretty good at it. So that opened a lot of doors when I got out of the military.

Kirk Parsley:
I was in during the Clinton administration si we were like Team America, we were like the police of the world. We didn't really, there were no wars or anything we just went around and spanked people on the wrist and arrested people and told people not to do stuff and trained other militaries. And so it wasn't nearly as exciting as being a seal as now and it was also a young single man's game. I was on my way to becoming neither. I had met a girl, I wanted to get married and all this stuff.

Kirk Parsley:
And so, actually the woman who would become my wife was in physical therapy school and when I was on deployments I used to take her physical therapy books and read them just because I really, I've always been into nutrition and health and physiology and trying to make myself bigger, better, faster and stronger. And so, out of that I thought I would come back, I thought it was going to be a physical therapist and it takes 2000 volunteer hours to get into physical therapy school so I started volunteering at physical therapy clinics, San Diego Sports Medicine Center. And they hired me within, I volunteered there I think two weeks or something and then they hired me to be an aide and then I worked my way up to an assistant and then I said, "Yeah, I don't want to be a physical therapist anymore. It's not the right job for me."

Kirk Parsley:
And the doctor who, the head of the practice who's a big conglomerate practice, so actually the guy who talked me into becoming a doctor is the guy that I worked for the first year I got out of the Navy so it was really a cool full circle. But he talked me into going to medical school. The other doctors were talking to me about it and I was like I'm like, "Dude, there's no way I'm going to get into medical school. I'm a high school dropout. I spent two years in junior college just to get into college. I'm not going into medical school." And he came out and he said, "Well, the question isn't can you get in the question is would you go if you could get in?" I said, "Of course," and he said, "Well then that's what you should do." I was like, "That's pretty obvious."

Kirk Parsley:
So I applied and I got in and I went to the military's medical school because I was already married and I had a kid, I had another kid on the way and my time from being a seal counted towards my pay. And when you go to the military's medical school they pay you to go to medical school and medical school is free and books and equipment and everything is free. So I could support my family and go to medical school at the same time. The price for that is that you then have to stay in as a doctor for eight years after you get out of medical school. You have to commit to being a doctor for the Navy for eight years. And I figured I would get back to the seal teams and I did.

Kirk Parsley:
And then when I got back to the seal teams I was surprised to realize that I didn't have the slightest idea how to help the seals because none of them had disease and in medical school I had only learned about disease. I'd learned how to recognize, identify, and diagnose and treat diseases and they didn't have disease. And seals are a lot like professional athletes, about the worst thing that you can do is take their job away from them and that's not hyperbole it's really the worst thing you can do to them is say, "You can't be a seal anymore." And so they hide all of their problems from the medical community because they know that the doctors can disqualify them and not necessarily you can't be a seal anymore forever but like you need to come out of your platoon and get treatment for this and then you can go back in later and that's just horrible for those guys so they never tell the truth.

Kirk Parsley:
But because I was a former seal and there were still lots of guys at the seal teams that I had been a seal with or had gone through training with and they knew me and I had a good reputation. And so, they came to my office and they shut the door and they said, "Hey let me tell you what's really going on." And they told him this long litany of symptoms that again none of them reached disease but all of them were very suboptimal and these are guys who performance is everything and they just couldn't perform like they thought they should be able to and like they used to be able to. And every single, I mean by the time 20 guys had come into my office I could have told the next 300 guys what they were going to tell me because the story was just identical.

Kirk Parsley:
And somewhere around the hundredth patient I had this epiphany like your OB GYN, like a light bulb flies off in my head and I'm like, "He's on, he uses Ambien every night to go to sleep. I wonder how many of the other guys do." And so, but then when I went back through my notes I realized that every single guy who'd come to talk to me was on sleep drugs and that's not something that would be easy to pick up. So, being a doctor I didn't learn anything about sleep in medical school. You learn that if somebody can't sleep you give them one of these Z drugs which is Ambien, and Lunesta and there's another one I'm blanking on right now but they're all basically the same thing and that was it. And then that's what you do when people have sleep problems. And they don't have any side effects and they're totally safe and you don't have to worry about them, you don't have to monitor them, they don't affect any of your blood chemistry, you just pop them like candy and just sleep when you need to sleep.

Kirk Parsley:
And so, I just really didn't pay attention when I was taking their history and they're telling me what they're doing and taking and I'm like, "Okay yeah, Ambien." And so I said, "Well let me look into this." And so, what they looked like through blood labs was they looked like metabolically broken old men. So they looked like somebody with metabolic syndrome or pre diabetes probably about 60 years old and they were of course 35, 38, 40 years old at the upper end maybe there were some guys who were 45. I had some guys as young as 28 and they came in all of the same symptoms.

Kirk Parsley:
Their motivation sucked, their sleep sucked, they were always tired, their mood was just all over the place, they couldn't concentrate, they couldn't focus, they were having trouble keeping their body composition, they're way fatter than they used to be, not as much muscle, not as strong, not as much endurance, moody, sex drive wasn't as high, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, everything that you would think, what would a bad old tired 65 year old man come and tell you. This is exactly what these guys were telling me but they're shredded and they have six pack abs and they're big muscular vibrant looking guys.

Kirk Parsley:
And I was like, "I don't have a first clue." And I just started testing everything in their blood chemistry and all their hormones. All their anabolic hormones were low, all their inflammatory markers were really high, their insulin sensitivity really sucked, the blood cholesterol was crappy. And so, when I started looking at sleep it was the one thing that could unite, Occam's razor. The most simplistic thing, the one thing that can unite the most symptoms is the most likely to be true. And as I treated guys for adrenal fatigue and I was treating guys for, I was helping guys with nutrition, I was doing all sorts of stuff to try to help them but the one thing that made the most sense was sleep. And so I really started studying a lot about sleep and the beauty was in those days the seals already had a really good reputation because this was 2009.

Kirk Parsley:
And so I could call anybody like Dr. Oz if that's who I wanted to call, just any kind of celebrity doctor that authored any book, any leading clinician, head of any department at any hospital and I could say, "Hey, I'm a doctor for the seals and I've read your book, or I listened to your podcast, or I watched your video or I heard you lecture or whatever I was wondering if I could train with you." And they would all say, "Yeah, of course." And so, I got to learn really, really fast and the military allowed me to do whatever kind of training I wanted and they just said, "Do whatever you want to do." Of course they backtracked a lot and I got in a lot of trouble for doing things they didn't want me to do but that's all another story.

Kirk Parsley:
And then, I had so much success they started putting me into those pre and post retreats like I was telling you where I met Rob and they were like, "It's not just the sick guys that need us all the guys need to know this and they don't run into this." I'm like, "I couldn't agree more." And so, I started doing those lectures and I got on Rob's podcast and Rob and I lectured together and it led to all sorts of different, a couple hundred other podcasts and lectures all over the world and sports teams and all that stuff and that's how I became the sleep guy.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh my, it sounded like a horror movie in a way or like the moment where you're going through all of the charts and then you see this one thing that keeps popping up like Ambien, Ambien, Ambien, blank, that is crazy.

Kirk Parsley:
And all I wanted to do was fix their hormones. That's one of the first things I did was go get the hormonal certification that you read about in my bio because I mean all of their hormones were just trash and I was like, "Well, if we just fix their hormones." But then in the military you can't give people hormones it's just like for what, I know for whatever reason it had nothing to do with cheating in sports but it's similar, It's akin to that. It's like if you're a professional athlete there's lots of things you can't take and the seals are the same way. I wasn't allowed to give them hormones but all their hormones were low and the ones that should be high were low and the ones that should be low were high.

Kirk Parsley:
And the only way I really had to deal with that was nutrition and supplements and sleep. And so, I really wanted to go fix everybody's hormones but I said, "Well I can talk about their hormones when I talk about sleep because all of your hormones are regulated while you're asleep that's where all the magic happens." And here I am 10 years later I'm still the sleep guy. I mean it's like 10% of what I do in my clinical with my clinical work but it's what I'm known for, it's people talk to me about is sleep so.

Melanie Avalon:
Something I was wondering was how much of it is your day to day clinical practice. Yep you are definitely a wealth of knowledge and definitely known as the sleep guy. So what is sleep?

Kirk Parsley:
Well, I mean if I could define, if I could nail this it's a good thing we're recording because if I nail this then I'll be the head of sleep science because sleep scientist can't really agree on this 100% either. There's lots of what we call working definitions which just means if we're going to study people's sleep we're going to define sleep as this. But if you look from across different studies depending on what they're studying and how they're studying it the working definition changes sometimes a little bit. But the best definition, the grandfather of sleep medicine is guy named William Dement who retired five or 10 years ago. He was, I think he finished at Stanford but he was at the University of Chicago and some other places and he was one of the original sleep doctors. He's one of the guys who figured out the rapid eye, the REM and he was one of the two guys that did that.

Kirk Parsley:
So I mean sleep medicine is only about 50 years old, it's not been around that long. And he defined sleep as being a barrier, there's a barrier between you and your environment and you can be awakened and that's his definition. I take it a step further primarily because of sleep drugs and I say, "Well there's a barrier between you and your environment. You can be awakened and you have predictable brainwave patterns and physiology." And I say that because if when you take sleep drugs your physiology, your brainwaves and your sleep stages are not the same as when you're not taking sleep drugs so I don't really consider it sleep.

Kirk Parsley:
But the most accurate, and this is stupid, but the most accurate definition of sleep is the lack of being awake. We don't actually have a process to drive us to sleep what we have is hundreds and thousands of processes that take away our awareness and our awakeness. And once enough of that is gone we're in this state which we all agree to call sleep. And of course we don't have a very good subjective measure of we don't remember sleep very well so it's hard to describe because by definition you're not very aware so it's a hard one to define but that's my best shot right there.

Melanie Avalon:
So, could one argue that being asleep is closer to your real state of reality and then being awake is beyond that like sleep is baseline and then being awake is going beyond? Like when babies are in the womb are they asleep?

Kirk Parsley:
Man I knew you were going to ask me that. I don't have any idea. They've never been able to put electrodes on a baby's head in the womb. But I mean I'm totally with you it would be, if you could go back and remember being in the womb and you could remember every other state in your life my guess is it would probably be the most similar metaphor would be being in the womb. And a lot of that's just because they don't understand awareness yet so there's really no awareness to be had. But I mean I don't know if I would say that it's our baseline. What I would say is that our physiology is dichotomous. I mean there there are definitely very different times and very different things going on while we're awake in our bodies and our brains then there are when we're asleep and you can't get either of them in either place. So, I can't read the newspaper or listen to a podcast while I'm asleep it's a totally different state but there's really productive things.

Kirk Parsley:
And actually the newspaper that I read and the podcast that I listen to during the day that's actually all being processed and actually solidified and learned while I'm asleep. But my body's it's a different organism at that time. I think of it more as like sleep is really where you're recharging. I mean the simplest way to define sleep is what sleep does is it prepares your body and your brain for tomorrow, for after you get up. And if you don't sleep or if you don't sleep well you still have to do tomorrow, it's not optional. And so you get up and you do tomorrow but you do it with less resources and that's why I'm not a big fan of any of these tricks around getting less sleep and trying to perform as well. I just haven't seen any data that's convincing to me that it's actually possible.

Kirk Parsley:
So I would say we have two very distinct states in our life and I've done ayahuasca so I've done that plant medicine experience where you lose all sense of awareness and the world's a really different place. And that's probably cognitively a lot like being asleep but my body was definitely still awake. And I do transcendental meditation and I'd say it's the opposite my brain stays awake but my body definitely feels like it goes to sleep. So I probably just made it more confusing but I hadn't really thought of it that way before. I mean I would just say there's two different states. I mean there's being awake and there's being asleep they're both equally valuable.

Kirk Parsley:
Everybody really seems to be put off that it takes eight hours to restore their body but it's like hey you get 16 hours of activity for only eight hours of sleep. If that were a Tesla everybody would be super happy about that you could just charge it for eight hours and drive it for 16 hours straight everybody would be like, "This is the greatest machine ever." But everybody wants to bio hack it and try to figure out if they can do it with six hours of sleep and then they can do more than other people or four hours of sleep and they can do more and I just don't think it works well, I know it doesn't work.

Melanie Avalon:
That is a major good question that I had was the eight hours is often thrown around as the amount of sleep we need do you think that eight hours is a pretty consistent I mean among everybody or is sleep needs more intuitive? Do some people naturally need less sleep and some naturally need more?

Kirk Parsley:
So I have not seen any compelling evidence. There are sometimes a few studies here and there that, I won't be critical of just because I can't remember specifics of anything right now that I would want to point out. But if you look at any body of science there's a ton of controversy in it. Like look at nutrition, are you supposed to be vegan or are you supposed to be keto? You can get brilliant scientists who spent their whole life studying nutrition he'll tell you that being keto is the best thing you should do, the best thing you could possibly do or paleo is the best thing you could possibly do. And then you have brilliant scientists who spent their whole life studying nutrition who say, "No, being a vegan is the best thing that you can do or vegetarian or whatever."

Kirk Parsley:
So there's a lot, and most branches of science are like that. I mean surgery is like that. "No, no, you don't do it this way you do it that way." I mean just about everything we study there's a lot of controversy in it. There's no controversy with sleep. So back in William Dement's day day in the very beginning when they're trying to figure out that very question I mean that was the question on everybody's mind. If you think about it humans evolved to sleep on this planet and we basically sleep when it's nighttime and we're awake when it's daytime and that's how we're wired. That's why the sunlight and the blue light in our eyes affects our sleep so much and we can talk more about that later.

Kirk Parsley:
But the question once industrialization and rural electrification came along the question then became, "Well, how much do I have to sleep?" Because as soon as time became money and money became this universal reward that we could use to buy all sorts of other resources everybody wanted more money. So how much do I actually have to sleep? And so, that was one of the first questions that they set out to study is how much sleep do we need. And then I know you want to talk about sleep debt so I could talk about that in the same story.

Kirk Parsley:
What they do is since working adults usually can't take a whole lot of time off and researchers can't pay research subjects a whole lot of money most of the original research was done on college students. But what they would do is during the summer, and this has been replicated hundreds of times across all sorts of different cultures, and different countries, and different distances from the equator and all sorts of variables have been thought about testing on this. But what they do is they would take people and they would put them in a bunker and so there was absolutely no light, these were World War II bunkers.

Kirk Parsley:
There was just no light it was a concrete room, they had a toilet and a bed and they closed the door and they had to stay in the room 14 hours a day. And there was no light to be turned on, there was no book to be read, there were obviously no iPhones, anything like that. I mean this is in the 60s. And they would just put them in there and they'd let them sleep and they would check on them from time to time and see if they're awake. But they left them in the room no matter what for 14 hours every day and then they went out for 10 hours they could do whatever they wanted to do and then they had to come back and be.

Kirk Parsley:
And so they did this for a very long time and when they first start no matter who they do this to whether it's college students or farmers or I mean a hunter gatherer it doesn't matter who, when you do this to people that have any control, that try to exercise any control over when they sleep and when they wake up the average person sleeps 12 and a half hours when they first start this. And they have no idea that they've slept 12 and a half hours. And if you ask them how long they sleep they have no clue. They'll guess anywhere from six hours to nine hours or nobody would think that they slept 12 and a half hours but the average person sleeps 12 and a half hours.

Kirk Parsley:
And if you keep doing this over time and different studies show different timeframes but roughly somewhere around a month, three weeks to a month you'll start to, you'll see everybody will sleep 12 and a half hours when they first start. And then that will just keep going down, and down, and down, and down and down until everybody plateaus. And then no matter how long you take it out the average person is sleeping seven and a half hours and the deviation of that is 30 minutes. So it's seven and a half hours plus or minus half an hour basically encompassed about 99.9995623% of everybody. And so, what was happening in the beginning is they were paying back their sleep debt so now they've paid back their sleep debt and now they're functioning. And if you think about what that means if they were sleeping seven and a half hours it means that they were laying in a bed in a cold, dark room with nothing to do for six and a half hours a day and they weren't falling asleep. Not very many people could do that right?

Kirk Parsley:
Falling asleep. Not very many people could do that, right? So it proved that they didn't need any more sleep. They weren't dozing off, they weren't taking naps. They were sleeping seven and a half hours, they were getting up, they were ready to be awake and they were staying awake the whole day. Now, that then later got extrapolated into when we start testing people for how much does your performance decline with lack of sleep. Well, it only makes sense that we have to make sure that you're performing at your best first, right? So we have to sleep adapt you first. We have to get rid of your sleep deficit, your sleep debt.

Kirk Parsley:
And so once you paid back your sleep debt, now you're at your optimal and now we can start testing you, and we can teach you something new like to type on your computer with only your left hand or to use your right thumb to push the yellow button when this happens and reuse your left index finger to push the red button when this happens or just things that you wouldn't know how to do. And then we're just teaching you how to do them and testing you on them, and then that becomes your baseline. 

Kirk Parsley:
And then if we take away a little bit of sleep and instead of sleeping an average of eight hours or so, you sleep about six hours and then we test you the next day and guess what? Your performance goes down and it keeps going down every day, and after about three days or four days, you think that you've completely adapted and that you're doing as well as you've ever done. No matter how long they keep the study going, you will keep getting worse and your learning rate just keeps decreasing. Your memory gets worse and worse and worse. Your problem solving ability gets worse and worse. Your endurance gets worse, your strength gets worse, your emotional stability gets worse. Your ability to recognize other peoples emotions get worse, your communication gets worse, everything gets worse forever. I mean, it never stops. As long as you sleep deprive yourself, you just keep getting worse.

Melanie Avalon:
That's fascinating. I was on the edge of my seat during that whole story. Wow. 

Kirk Parsley:
It's scary, right? Because it's like the average American sleeps 6.2 hours. I mean it's the average American function. The average American is functioning most of the day, the same as they would be if they were drunk or just mildly drunk. And so, I don't know if you saw my Ted talk, but that was a metaphor I used to my Ted talk was, what if your surgeon just took a shot right before your surgery and said, all right, let's go. You'd freak out and you'd be like, wait, wait, wait. I don't want a surgeon who's been drinking.

Melanie Avalon:
Or your pilot.

Kirk Parsley:
Or your pilot, right? It's like, yeah, your pilot comes out and said, "Hey, free shots for everybody before we take off, right?" And everybody would want to get off the plane. But is your pilot sleep deprived? Almost certainly. And, they've done tons of studies now where they'll do exactly what I just told you and they'll test optimize people in some event, or they've done it with things like drinking and driving versus sleep deprivation and driving or any type of hand eye coordination or juggling or playing musical instruments or solving math problems, whatever, verbal fluency, all the things that you test people for when they're drunk and you say, oh they're impaired. 

Kirk Parsley:
And there's a very strong, I mean there's very well laid out correlation that if you deprive yourself of this much sleep, you will perform as though you have a blood alcohol level of about here. Interestingly, so my ex wife is actually from Australia, and in Australia the legal limits a lot lower. It's so we have what? We have 0.08, and so they have 0.05 is their limit. Well if you sleep six hours a night and you drive after you've been awake for 16 hours, you perform exactly like somebody who's at that limit. If you sleep two hours less than you need for about 10 or 11 days in a row, which is very common, you'll perform as though you have a blood alcohol level of 0.1, so well above the legal limit for the US. And how many Americans sleep two hours less than they need almost their entire adult life.

Kirk Parsley:
But just like when you drink, one of the big problems with drinking is that you don't realize you're impaired. Your awareness of how well you're functioning is diminished. And the same thing when you're sleep deprived, you think you're doing just fine, you think your performance is okay. You think you look all right, you think your aging is okay. It's like you think you're in pretty good shape. You think you're performing pretty well at your job. But once you readapt, once you pay back your sleep debt and start sleeping the way you should every night, you'll be like, holy crap, was I wrong? I was a ball of trash, I didn't even recognize it. I thought I was doing pretty well. 

Melanie Avalon:
So most of us might be walking around drunk, that's awesome.

Kirk Parsley:
Yup. Another interesting just add on to that story is that when you are sleep deprived and you're performing as though you're already drunk, every alcoholic drink has about twice the impact on it they would have if you weren't sleep deprived. So, if you're regularly sleep deprived and you have two alcoholic drinks and you get in your car and you're driving, you are drunk driver. I don't care how big you are, I mean how much you had to eat, you're a drunk driver. 

Melanie Avalon:
That is really scary. But there is hope which hopefully we will get to. I do have some follow up questions though about that sleep debt study. So making up one sleep debt, I mean that's crazy to me that it takes, you said what, 12 hours, it'll take them a month of 12 hours every night? 

Kirk Parsley:
No, no. So, they would start about 12 and a half hours and then a few days later they'd be sleeping like 11 and a half hours and then 10 and a half hours and the nine and a half, and it works its way down. It's not 12 hours a day for three weeks or a month or something. It's just if you want to do it all at once and do it super rapidly that's ... I mean there might've been some people who did it as fast as two weeks, but I don't think anyone ever got through it faster than that. So about two weeks. And, that's college students, so I don't know where they were and obviously they were on summer break or something, so I don't know what they'd been doing to themselves for finals and drinking and who knows. 

Kirk Parsley:
I don't think you can extrapolate it and say that's the answer. But the point is just, it's really consistent that when you do that, that people need a lot of sleep. And if you give people permission to sleep and you take away their awareness of time, people will sleep really long time. One of the things that happens with my sleep supplement that boosts all the time is I give away samples, and then people come by the next day and they buy the product and they say, man, I took this last night and I slept for 10 hours or 11 hours or 12 hours or something like that. And I was like, I'll be like, it's great. I'm glad you got a good night's sleep. But this product did not make you sleep that long because there's nothing in there that lasts more than three or four hours. 

Kirk Parsley:
So, that was primarily, they got into a good state of sleep, but then they also had given themselves permission to sleep as long as they needed to sleep. Because they'd probably heard me wax on about that in a lecture or something. So.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. So it's not the same thing as these sleep medicines that are actual sleep drugs that are creating this groggy effect the next day that just lasts and lasts and never even having entered I guess that true form of sleep. I do have a quick question. So you're saying that it came out to be about seven and a half hours for the individual, what do you think about early birds versus night owls? Do you think with the eight hours that we all naturally would have those if there was no artificial lighting, no time commitments, no anything, we would all have these eight hours naturally aligning with the darkness or do you think some people are naturally "night" owls and some people are early birds? 

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah. So the difference between owls and lark is definitely very well documented. The data's strong on that and it's a safe scientific position to say that those two exist. Exactly what does that mean isn't as clear, but the difference really isn't when you're sleeping is I mean it is now, but when you, and I'll get back to this. But the most important thing between an owl and a lark is that a lark feels very, very, very awake immediately upon waking and that's their highest productivity and it's their highest creativity. That's when they should be getting after in their life. 

Kirk Parsley:
An owl feels at their peak much later in the day. Now, if you use the sun and you don't have any electricity and we have the benefit of still being able to do these studies. One of these studies was done, I covered it and I wrote a piece on it in my website, so you can look up the exact date and article. I can't remember. But it was probably five years ago, four or five years ago. Some researchers went out and found hunter gatherers communities that had never been exposed to electricity and they studied them and they tried to stay out of their way and they just watched them and they watched how they ate. And they watched how they slept and all sorts of things and there was some sleep researchers there and they were having them wear the actigraphy watches that would measure their movement and so forth.

Kirk Parsley:
What they found across all seasons, and I can't remember how many groups there were, there were five or six different groups they were studying in different regions, but it really didn't matter really what they ate or how they spent their days or when they felt the most awake. Everybody went to sleep about three to three and a half hours after the sun went down and they woke up right before the sun came up or right around the same time that the sun came up. In the shorter nights, sometimes they'd be waking up as long as maybe an hour after the sun came up. 

Melanie Avalon:
Sorry, it broke up for me. Did you say how long after the sun went down? Three?

Kirk Parsley:
Three to three and a half hours after the sun goes down is what most research shows and then you wake up right around the time the sun's going to come up. Some of that has to do with body temperature. These people they're not sleeping in beds, there's five people curled up on an animal fur, the whole family sleeps together that kind of sleeping environment. But everybody wakes up right around the time the sun is coming up. So maybe a little bit before, maybe a little after. 

Kirk Parsley:
And then sometimes in the summers when the nights were really short and the days were really long, they would wake up an hour. It might have been as long as an hour and a half after the sun came up. I can't remember exactly. It's been a while since I read it, but I mean it's just really consistent and it's consistent with everything else we know in sleep science is that, your circadian rhythm can be pushed around but it can't be shortened or lengthened really. I mean, it is what it is, you need that much sleep. I mean there's nothing you can do about it. 

Kirk Parsley:
If you think about how vulnerable a human being is, when you think about what crappy predators we really are anyway, right? I mean, a really angry squirrel in my backyard would probably be slightly intimidating to me because they've got fangs and claws and stuff. It might scratch my eyes out and so. We're not very tough animals when you just look at us compared to all the carnivores who would want to eat us. Intuitively, it just seems we would make the most sense for us to go hide in the dark and sleep and not be out there when the world was really dangerous was an even more dangerous place for us to be, which is most of human existence. Our fights haven't been against oppression and finances and stuff like I mean it's been fighting against nature to stay alive. 

Kirk Parsley:
You think if evolution favors alterations in people, so when there's a genetic mutation and it changes the way a person behaves or the way a person who's built or their strength or their speed or their height or whatever, evolution selects out and well this is better and this is better and this is better. But, interestingly, of course we don't have sleep studies from a long time ago. Maybe people used to always sleep 12 hours, but interestingly nobody has evolved to sleep less than eight hours. But, it would have been a great benefit one would think if you only had to sleep four hours, so well then that's four less hours you're vulnerable.

Melanie Avalon:
That's true. You think evolution would have selected for that.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah. So the fact that it hasn't been able to, makes me pretty sure that a 35 year old biohacker who's got 35 years of experience on this planet probably isn't going to outsmart a few million years worth of evolution and you just need to sleep.

Melanie Avalon:
That's a very valid argument. I find that reassuring. Do you consider yourself a night owl or are you morning person?

Kirk Parsley:
I'm definitely an owl.

Melanie Avalon:
I think, if I could change one thing about me, it literally might be, I want to be a morning person so bad, so bad. I don't know. 

Kirk Parsley:
Well, you're young, you'll appreciate it later. I love being an owl now. I was right where you were. When I was young and the race was on and everything was about achievement and productivity, man, I wanted to be able to hop out of bed and get on. And in the military I didn't really have a choice, right?

Melanie Avalon:
So true.

Kirk Parsley:
But go ahead. If you could change one thing.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. Just for that reason, I just, I don't know, there's just this idea that morning people are so productive and that's the way you should be. But every time I try consciously to become a morning person, it does not matter what I do. I always come back to my natural owl self. Even if I wake up at 3:00 AM and I'm like, okay, I'm up at 3:00 AM, I'm going to be tired, come 7:00 PM it doesn't matter I will be awake, still late. Because what inevitably happens in that situation is I will probably succumb to a nap and then I'll be up later. But even if I don't have a nap, it doesn't matter, come evening something just kicks in and I'm awake and I'm good to go and I'm productive.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah. Your productivity is later in the day, and unfortunately because of primarily around children and school and then corporate work times, that's what's driven our behavior. But, when you work for yourself, when you're an entrepreneur, I mean, I have 100% control over my schedule. I don't ever have to be awake if I don't want to be and I don't never have to be sleeping. Well, travel is an exception obviously. But, I know when my most productive times are and it took me a long time to just say, you know what, I'm never going to be good at this. I'm never going to get up in the morning and write for two hours. It's just not going to happen. It's never ever, ever going to happen. So I just gave up on that idea and I said, you know what, I'm going to write at this block because this is when I actually feel like writing.

Kirk Parsley:
I've done so many different testing, so many different testings for that, personality types and your flow, when you're in your flow and how you're getting your flow and what are mentally taxing things for you and what are creative things for you and what do you enjoy and what's drudgery and how do you schedule a day around that. I've had so much coaching around there, it's unbelievable. And It all basically boils down to exactly what you would have done if no one ever taught you anything and you didn't have any prejudices and you just said, oh, I don't feel like doing that now, I'm going to do that when I feel like doing it, because the drudgery is just drudgery. It's just crap work, you have to get through it. You have to reply to these emails and whatever, pay bills and handle invoices and complaints and whatever and you just have to do that and it's not going to be fun. It's not going to be cool. It's not going to be exciting. It's not going to be rewarding. 

Kirk Parsley:
And there's some point in your day you're going to have to grind through that. Well, I grind through that when I don't feel like doing anything anyway. It's just like, I might as well just grind through this crap right now. It's like, I just actually want to sit here and drink my coffee and stare out the window, but I'll just force myself to answer these emails while I'm doing that, and then later on in the day when I do actually feel like being productive and creative and active, that's when that scheduled in my day. I never write before probably one o'clock would be the earliest I ever tried to write and usually it's probably three to six. That's my peak time if I'm going to write a blog or when I was writing my book or anything like that, that's the time I write. 

Melanie Avalon:
I was smiling so much when you said that because I was about to say, yup that's what I do. In the morning, well, the morning, the afternoon when I'm not on point yet even is when I do all of that, that "mindless" stuff that doesn't require much creative thinking as far as answering emails, doing all the stuff, editing the podcast. 

Kirk Parsley:
Part of life is just a grind, and you have to be disciplined enough to do them, but you should also be smart enough to do them at the best time of the day for you. There's no sense in making it suck just to make it suck. 

Melanie Avalon:
Even if I don't actually enjoy doing it, I enjoy doing it because it feels productive to me, so I feel okay doing it, and then I get creative later like you said. Although my creativity window is like 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM which is not ideal, but I embrace it. 

Kirk Parsley:
I mean, that's actually not that bad. I mean as long as you could wind down pretty quickly after that.

Melanie Avalon:
That's the thing. Yeah, that's the thing. 

Kirk Parsley:
If you could sleep from 11:30 to 7:30 every day or something like that, there's nothing wrong with that. It's like when you start getting really far away from that three hours posts sound like I'm in Austin, it won't get dark here tonight until like 9:30 probably. I'll probably be in bed when it's getting dark. So I mean you're not too far off, you're within a couple of hours. 

Melanie Avalon:
Oh well I'm not really that, I'm more like a two to 11 type person.

Kirk Parsley:
Oh, yeah, that's probably not ideal.

Melanie Avalon:
But it always goes back to that, but okay. Getting back to the sleep stuff, here's a major question I do have. So say that a person needs eight hours, does it matter if they sleep seemingly straight through those eight hours or what if they're waking up after I guess their sleep cycles, like I've, for example, rarely ever go to bed and then wake up the next morning. I tend to wake up after ... I mean it seems to be sleep cycles. It seems to be every three hours. Does that mean anything? I know some people will wake up and can't fall back asleep, so that's another question. So I guess the two aspects, what if you're waking up, but you do fall back asleep but you wake up after at the certain hours versus waking up and can't fall back asleep.

Kirk Parsley:
Everybody wakes up in the night, just not everybody remembers it. And you may not be remembering it just because of the physiology of your brain at that time or you may not be remembering it because you're not as awake and it's not as significant. Usually, let's say you wake up at two o'clock in the morning when you're hearing some odd thumping noise and you think maybe somebody is trying to break in your car and you look out your window or whatever, and you get back in bed. You'll remember that wake up.

Kirk Parsley:
But that same wake-up could happen the next night and there was really nothing significant. You just woke up and you didn't think about it and you went back to sleep. So waking up is completely normal and you can do sleep studies on people and these are probably not the healthiest sleepers for sure. But, there are people that wake up 300 times a night by brainwaves. When we're studying the physiology that we say, well this is what your physiology looks like when you're asleep and when you're out of that, you're not asleep anymore. There's a lot of micro wakings. 

Kirk Parsley:
But I think what you're alluding to, and it's a postulate. I mean, I don't think that it's ever been proven anywhere, but I mean really where it's been proven is in literature. So, if you look at the recordings of prolific writers, they almost always kept journals as well. So when we look back, even say 100 years ago, 150 years ago, people that lived in fairly modern conditions, they weren't worried about getting eaten by animals in the middle of the night and all that stuff. They tended to wake up during the winter. They tended to wake up for a pretty large block of time. 

Kirk Parsley:
And actually I don't remember where I heard it from, but somebody said, well, that's probably when they were making more babies as well, right? That was probably the procreation period because everybody had really small houses and all slept in one area. And so while the kids stayed asleep, the parents got to play. But, there's all sorts of examples across even cultures today, South American cultures, but there's a lot of documentations in journals and written into literature about how people would sleep for four or five hours and then they would get up and they might go next door and talk to their neighbor for an hour or two or they might hang out with their significant other or whatever. They might read for a bit or have a cup of tea or smoke a cigar or whatever people did back then, I don't know. And then they would go back to sleep and they'd sleep for another three to four hours. 

Kirk Parsley:
And so they would end up getting around eight hours of sleep. But they would do that over the course of about 12 hours, and that was because the nights were so long. The thought was that they were getting to bed early enough to get through the first half of their sleep and then the second half of their sleep could wait essentially. They woke up enough and knew because they'd been alive long enough to understand the planet, they knew that the night was going to be longer than they were going to sleep. So, they just chose to get up and do some things. And of course they didn't have electricity and so forth. So that wasn't the same type of stimulus that we would get if we got up early and did the same thing.

Kirk Parsley:
But, the way sleep works is when you first go to sleep at night, there's something that's called sleep pressure. Sleep pressure is really more than anything, it's a buildup of essentially waste products in your brain. When you feel just really tired and you feel like your brain just really can't function very well, it's because essentially there's a bunch of waste products in there. So, we eat food and we digest food and we waste food, right? And every cell in our body does that. So every cell in your body takes things in and it produces waste, and in your brain that waste gets flushed out when you're asleep, and primarily in the first 90 minutes of sleep. 

Kirk Parsley:
But, all of that pressure or all of those waste products are creating what we call sleep pressure. And they're making you feel like, I need to go to sleep. I need to turn my brain off because your brain wants to flush all that stuff out, intuitively your body's physiology is like, hey, we need to flush the brain out. So let's go to sleep. And your brain isn't working great because there's a bunch of crap around literally, cell crap, but it's crap.

Kirk Parsley:
When you first go to sleep, there's certain cells in your brain that hold the structure of the brain together and these cells actually contract and when they contract, there's shrinking and they're pulling themselves in tighter and they're creating bigger gaps and then cerebral spinal fluid can flow better and it can flush out all of these waste products in your brain. And then everything starts going back to normal. And over the first sleep cycle or definitely by the end of the second sleep cycle, all of that flushing has been done. 

Kirk Parsley:
When any cell in our body does anything it needs some energy to do it. And what humans operate off of is something called ATP, adenosine triphosphate. That molecule, the main molecule is called adenosine. And then you put these little phosphate molecules on the end of them and you put three on and it's a triphosphate and this is what our cells use to do their jobs. So, just think of it like electricity. You don't have to understand, it's just like this is the electricity for every cell and every cell has its own little generator that's producing this amount of electricity. Well ATP gets broken to ADP because it's a di phosphate and then it gets broken down into AMP, it's a monophosphate and then it gets broken down to just adenosine. And then it's just an adenosine molecule floating around in your brain. 

Kirk Parsley:
And you have receptors in your brain for adenosine. And when adenosine binds those receptors, it makes you feel really, really tired because it's a signal to your brain that you've used up a lot of energy and you need to rest. And so the more active your body is, or the more active your brain is, the more adenosine you build up in your brain. All caffeine does is block adenosine receptors. So, it competes for the same place that the adenosine is trying to go caffeine would get in there instead. And so then you don't get shut down by that, and you feel more stimulated, you feel a little more awake. 

Kirk Parsley:
So, that's the whole thing about what's putting you to sleep is this adenosine and other waste products. And once you fall asleep and you flush everything out, if you're running at a high level of adrenal function, high levels of stress hormones, is what that means. This was my second postulate with the seals, is that they're in war, of course they have high stress level, so they have high stress hormones levels, which means those levels have to come way down for them to be able to get adequate sleep, which is why they need the sleep drugs. 

Kirk Parsley:
So when you just naturally fall asleep, it hopefully it's because of the light, you've done the light thing, right? And your environment is slowing down around you, and then all these pressures are building up in your brain. You're going to sleep and everything is flushing out, and then your brain carries on. So when you first go to sleep, you go through, you almost immediately go into what we call deep sleep or slow wave sleep. So there's different stages of sleep. There's stage one, two, three, four and those are labeled different things, but three and four we just call slow wave or deep sleep. So, we'll just say deep sleep, and then you can come back actually above one when we're looking at brain neurophysiology, it's actually a higher level of operating above stage sleep one is something we call REM, which is rapid eye movement. 

Kirk Parsley:
And so what happens in the sleep cycle is you get in bed, you start falling asleep. When you're sleepy, you're in stage one. When you lay in your bed and you're aware of what's going on, it's like you have some awareness of what's going on around you, but you aren't really responding to it. It's not really something you have an option to respond to you, but you have some awareness of your environment, that's stage two. Then you get onto stage three and four and you're in really deep sleep. And if this time that's when you're a completely different machine at that point than you were when you were awake. And now what your body is doing is repairing and it's secreting all of the anabolic or growth promoting hormones and inflammatory products and fluids and it's repairing damaged tissues and overworked muscles and it's repairing brain damage if you've hit your head or you've had concussions or whatever. It's just your body is just preparing, getting itself ready to be stronger or at least as strong for tomorrow. 

Kirk Parsley:
And then you crawl back out of that and you slowly pop back through those stages and you come all the way back to a level of REM, and then you go past one level of REM and then that's what we call one sleep cycle, and that is anywhere from 90 minutes to 120 minutes. So what happens to a lot of people is that they're so stressed out, they're so wound up or they're just completely ignoring sleep hygiene. They have bright lights going and loud music, and they're cranking on their computer and they're working and they're just exhausted and they just go to bed and they go through a sleep cycle, and it flushes all the waste products out of their brain, and they get a little bit of recuperation and a little bit of restoration. And then when they come back through from stage one to REM sleep, you have to go through being awake to-

Kirk Parsley:
... To REM sleep, you have to go through being awake. To get from stage one to REM you actually go through the period where we call that's an awake brain state. And then you do REM and then you go back through awake, down to stage one and do that. You have to do this whole cycle over and over again. So if you have too much stress hormones, you have too many wake promoting ... And stress hormones, you could really just say, these are chemicals in your brain that are promoting your brain to be awake. They're encouraging you to be awake. And there's good evolutionary reasoning for that.

Kirk Parsley:
But right now, we're stressed over all sorts of crap that has nothing to do with our survival, but our brain doesn't know the difference. And so you do one good sleep cycle, maybe two good sleep cycles, and then your stress hormones are high enough to just when you come back to that wake period, you're just like, no, I'm awake, my brain's awake, I'm ready to be awake. And then that becomes a learned behavior, which is just self-propagating downward spiral. You just keep doing more and more and more of that.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay, that explains a lot. I mean, just personally, for me, historically, looking at my sleep, I think I've experienced both. Where I'd wake up after a cycle, and then be it from the elevated stress hormones or the conditioning of it, I'd be like, I can't fall back asleep, and then it would just become a thing. Whereas other times in my life, I would consciously be aware of waking up between the cycles, but then could slip back into the next one.

Kirk Parsley:
Right.

Melanie Avalon:
So many complicated things. 

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah.

Melanie Avalon:
I want to get your thoughts really quickly on like common sleep aids that people use to fall asleep. So pharmaceutical drugs, how are they working? And then also, antihistamines like Benadryl for example. I know a lot of people can knock themselves out with that. What are your thoughts on those and how are those working? 

Kirk Parsley:
I probably should have prefaced all of this. Everything that I am saying is so over simplified to where like a good sleep researcher would want to correct almost every sentence I'm saying. And I realize it but this is the way to make it palatable, all right? Like, you have to simplify it to where somebody who hasn't been studying this for 20 years can actually understand it. So stress hormones, as we know, I mean, most people think of stress hormones as cortisol. And cortisol is one of the stress hormones, but there's also epinephrine and norepinephrine. There's other hormones that our bodies secrete to tell our brains to be awake. And a lot of them are lumped into this neural pathway we call a stress hormone. 

Kirk Parsley:
Now, you're supposed to have some stress. Stress hormones are what keep you alive. If you have no stress hormones, you're dead. When you wake up in the morning, your stress hormones aren't that high. So you're not that awake. And if your stress hormones went really high, you would be really awake. And if you're laying around in your couch and you're reading a book, and it's early in the morning or late at night, your stress hormones are probably really low. But then, I don't know, if you hear gunshots at your neighbor's house or car crashes into a tree in your yard or something, your stress hormones go really high and now you're really awake. So stress hormones are a good thing. It's just where we living at the basal level of them, like how much of them do we have, relative to how we evolved. 

Kirk Parsley:
We do know that when you have stress hormones that are too high for too long, they actually have the opposite effect of what stress hormones usually do. What stress hormones usually do is they make you better. So if you think about fight or flight, this is like that's the ultimate stress level, right? That's when your adrenal response is the highest. So this is ancestrally when our ancestors would see like a black, orange white striped pattern and an animal fur like through the bushes, whatever. And that immediately sparks off this area in our brain called the amygdala, just as maximum stress to get out of there. 

Kirk Parsley:
Or today, it's like you almost get in a car crash or somebody's trying to pick a fight with you or the police come knocking on your door, your boss is angry with you or your spouse is angry at you, your brain perceives all that as the same. It's all it's all a threat to your survival. So you get the stress hormones. And we've developed our lives, even answering your cell phone, that's a level of stress. Your cell phone ringing in your pocket and you pulling it out. Even if you don't feel any stress, well, that stress hormones that's making you more alert to that thing because you weren't paying attention to that. Now you have to pay attention to what you were paying attention to and the phone, and you're driving, and, and, and. And that's just the way our lives have gotten. So we're running at really high stress hormones. And that's completely counterproductive to getting good sleep. 

Kirk Parsley:
But there's other chemicals in our brains that are used ... For simplicity, we'll just call them neurotransmitters. There's neurotransmitters in our brains that just promote being awake. They're just in there ... When your overall physiologic state is convincingly to your brain that now are supposed to be awake, you'll be awake. And there'll be a lot of these wake promoting neurotransmitters floating around your brain and making your brain work really well and making your vision work well and your hearing work well and your ability to interact. And perceive the world around you is really good because every cell in your body has agreed that we're supposed to be awake right now.

Kirk Parsley:
Well, histamine is a wake promoting neurotransmitter. So an antihistamine just blocks histamine. It's not getting rid of the problem, right? If the problem is a fire, this is just like, well, throw a blanket over the couch so fire doesn't burn the couch down. You're not solving the problem, is like, there's still a fire there, right? So if you have a lot of wake promoting neurochemistry when you should be asleep, that's because you're doing a lot of other things wrong, assuming that your goal is to go to sleep. At the sort of ideal time, you're you've messed up your sleep routine quite a bit to where you have a lot of these neurochemicals that shouldn't be there keeping you awake.

Kirk Parsley:
Wipe all of that aside, if we get to talking about sleep hygiene, I assume we'll do a little bit about that. I can simplify sleep hygiene really down into just two things. What happens when you take a sleep drug, is sleep drug is trying to do a pharmacological trick. It's doing something different in your brain than your brain is capable of doing. So there's this peptide in your brain as your brain is getting ready to go to sleep, it's increasing and it's called GABA. Most people have heard of that, capital GABA, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. GABA kind of slows down your brain and makes you less involved with your environment. 

Kirk Parsley:
Well, what a sleep drugs like a pharmacological sleep drug does is it binds to the same receptor that GABA would bind to. But it binds to it with 1,000 times the affinity, which means that there's 999 GABA molecules and one molecule of the sleep drug, the one molecule sleep drug is still just as likely to bind that over the thousand GABA. And when it binds that receptor, it has an effect that's like 1,000 times more. So if we go back to like our little electricity metaphor, it's like you have like a little nine volt battery, a little receptor for a nine volt battery and you're putting like 220 volts or 220 volts of electricity into this. And it's having a super physiologic effect. It's doing way more of what GABA would do. That receptor is acting in a way that it would never work any other ... Would never happen if you didn't put this drug in your body. 

Kirk Parsley:
When I talked about the sleep stages earlier, so going down through the sleep stages, and with a rather predictable time period, and a rather predictable cycle in and out of these, with deep sleep happening primarily at the beginning of the night and REM sleep happening primarily in the second half of sleep, that architecture does not exist anymore when you take sleep drugs. So by my definition of sleep, and this is why I added to William Dement is that, by my definition, you're not asleep because you're not going through the normal sleep cycles and you're not staying the same ... Like some stages you won't even get into. And then the stages you do get into, you might be in them twice as long or three times as long as than you should have or half as long as, a quarter as long as you should have. 

Kirk Parsley:
So every sleep aid on the planet affects sleep architecture, and they all do it to various degrees. And it's all dosage dependent and time of day dependent and there's some individual physiology. But the basics of it is when you take a sleep drug, you pretty much rob your brain of REM sleep, which is where your brain is really getting smarter is during REM sleep, that's when your brain is doing most of its getting ready for tomorrow. And if you use alcohol or benzodiazepines or antihistamines, you lose primarily the deep sleep which is when your body is actually restoring and getting ready for tomorrow. Of course, both are happening in both phases. That's an oversimplification. But the bottom line is that all sleep drugs negatively impact sleep architecture.

Kirk Parsley:
And when we say that people need seven and a half hours plus or minus half an hour, that's with normal sleep architecture. If they have abnormal sleep by architecture and they're not staying in deep cycles long enough or they're not getting enough RAM, those people very often need 9 or 10 hours of sleep. So it's just not sleep. It's unconsciousness and it's just not sleep.

Melanie Avalon:
So definitely not the route to go. I asked in one of my Facebook groups questions for a sleep expert and probably the question I got the most was using melatonin to sleep. Melatonin.

Kirk Parsley:
Magic melatonin.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah, people want to know is it okay to use? How much to use? Is it addictive? Does it change your natural melatonin secretion?

Kirk Parsley:
This is a question we don't have a great answer to whether or not it decreases the production of melatonin that your brain sees. So through some kind of physiologic and pharmacological trickery, we can sample melatonin in your saliva. But that's not obviously sampling it from your brain. Your brain is wrapped in like this really hefty trash bag that not everything in your bloodstream can get in and out of your brain. It's called the blood-brain barrier and it protects you from getting infections in your brain, essentially. But there's lots of things that you can put in your body that won't get in your brain.

Kirk Parsley:
So for us to say, well, in your saliva or in your blood serum, we can test and it looks like that the melatonin productions are about the same. We don't know for a fact that that means that the melatonin is the same in your brain. It could possibly be. However, melatonin is a hormone. Counter to the FDA rules, whatever the rules are, they make up new rules every week. But supposedly, if it exist in nature and it doesn't have to be manufactured and exist in nature, then supposedly it's not a drug. But of course, testosterone is a drug and estrogen is a drug. And vitamin D3 is a hormone and that's a vitamin, it's not even ... That's a supplement and melatonin is a hormone, but we just call that a supplement. 

Kirk Parsley:
Try to get those classifications out of your way and just say, okay, what is this hormone melatonin do? And what this hormone melatonin does is it decreases the amount of stress hormones that your body is making, your adrenals. It decreases how many stress hormones you're making, and it decreases how sensitive your brain is to stress hormones. So the reason it can help with sleep is if you take a bunch of it, and it goes into your brain. And your problem with getting to sleep is that you have too much stress hormones. Your brain's too awake. You can block a lot of the effects of the stress hormones in your brain for a while, and you'll fall asleep and oftentimes you can stay asleep. The question is, how much do you take? 

Kirk Parsley:
Well, we don't really know how much is crossing into the brain. So that's its own thing. That's going to vary from person to person, but there's also no way to sample that other than like putting a catheter into somebody's brain and having them take pills and check it. That research is never going to be done. That's obviously way too dangerous. But the other thing that happens ... Let me back up. So melatonin is a hormone. And I just told you what its function is. Now, what we know about every other hormone in your body, every other hormone that we are aware of, if we give you this hormone, your body will produce less of it. So if I give a man testosterone, his testicles will produce less testosterone. If give a woman estrogen, her ovaries will produce less estrogen. If I give somebody cortisol, their adrenal will produce less cortisol. We know this across every single hormone. 

Kirk Parsley:
So melatonin unfortunately is made and secreted in the brain, so we can't really test it. So we don't know for sure that it decreases it. But what we do know, and this is from animal studies, is that if you give somebody or you give an animal melatonin, and you're putting at dosages that their brain would never see, and it's having the effect that you want. It's making them calm or it's an antioxidant, or it's making them sleep, whatever you're studying. What we do know is that once you sacrifice rats and you study their brain, the number of receptors that they have for melatonin has greatly diminished.

Kirk Parsley:
So what it means is, let's say that you take a one milligram tablet of melatonin. And let's say half of that tablet actually gets into your brain, that would be exceptional, but like let's just say that happens. And you get half of that milligram into your brain all at once. And it just saturates all your melatonin receptors and you fall asleep. And you do this over and over and over and over and over again. And then what will happen is you'll decrease the number of receptors you have for melatonin. So now it doesn't really matter how much you take, because there's no place for it to go, there's no receptors for it to bind to. So you keep upping the dose, and upping the dose, and then it doesn't really work anymore and you quit taking it. Well, now your brain doesn't have any chance of producing anything close to what you were taking.

Kirk Parsley:
So when I talked about the hunter/gatherers that we studied falling asleep three to three and a half hours after the sun went down, they're doing that because of physiological and pharmacology, not pharmacology, because of physiological neurophysiology, neurochemicals in their brains changing and one of those is melatonin. So from the time the sun goes down, until the time the sun comes up and you wake up the next day, your brain might produce about half a milligram of melatonin over that 12-hour period. But if you take a capsule with even one milligram and half of it gets into your brain, you're getting all of that at once. That makes sense?

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah.

Kirk Parsley:
So you're going to over the long run ... If you're just taking it now and then, you're using it as a jet lag tool, more power to you. As long as you're not traveling every week. But if you use it chronically, you're going to decrease your brain's ability to respond to melatonin. And very likely you're decreasing your brain's production of melatonin.

Melanie Avalon:
So it sounds like addressing the root cause of one's lifestyle and environment can be key for sleep, rather than these be sleep band aids as it were. I do want to touch briefly on your thoughts on how eating affects sleep. Do you think it's a problem if people are eating ... Because I know a lot of ... The other podcast, the Intermittent Fasting Podcast and a lot of people follow one meal a day type pattern where they eat later in the evening. So what are your thoughts on eating and sleep is? Like, if you eat right before sleeping, does that impair sleep quality or quantity?

Kirk Parsley:
The only animal on this planet that we know of that deliberately sleep-deprives itself is the human. No other animals do this. To me that's pretty convincing evidence that sleep is pretty damn important if no other animal on this planet is doing it except us. Now, there's an exception to when an animal will sleep less. And this doesn't necessarily mean that it's doing it by choice, but its physiology is making this happen. And there's two times where this will happen. One is if the stress hormones are super high, because this animal is actually being hunted.

Kirk Parsley:
So if you can think of a type of prey that's maybe being stalked by a pack of wolves or something, it's not going to go to sleep when it feels tired, right? It's just going to keep going and going, going. And then when it finally does get some sleep, the second it has enough energy to get up and go again, it's going to get up and go again because it's worried about getting killed, obviously. The only other time that any animal on this planet sleep-deprive themselves, it's when they're starving. 

Kirk Parsley:
So when you're starving your blood glucose and your brain gets too low. And once the blood glucose in your brain gets too low, your brain says, shit, we don't have enough blood glucose. Because there's only a couple of things your brain can run off of. And there's only one that's around most of the time is glucose unless you're purposefully on a ketonic diet, which is the whole point of the ketotic diet is that ketones can be used as a brain fuel. But put that aside. Animals don't go and ketonic diets as far as I know. So when their blood glucose drops to a certain level, their brain is like, hey, we're about to starve, you need to get up and you need to go find food. 

Kirk Parsley:
Now, one of the things that happens when you get up and you haven't had enough sleep and you're going to find food is, your brains not working as well because the glucose is low. But your brain is also not working as well because it's not as well rested because you didn't get enough sleep. So this leads to riskier and riskier behavior and trying more and more novel things, which is why human beings act like idiots when they're sleep deprived. Because the part of your brain that makes good decisions and that puts boundaries up for you and allows you to predict whether something is a good idea that's likely going to have good consequences or an idea that's likely to have an unwanted consequences. That is the prefrontal cortex of your brain. That's what's being affected when you're sleep deprived.

Kirk Parsley:
When people are sleep deprived, and when people are calorie restricted, they're more likely to have affairs, they're more likely to have work conflicts with their peers or their bosses, they're more likely to be in car accidents. Like all the stupid things that humans do. And this is because of brain chemistry. And you can't get around it. So what happens if you have poor insulin sensitivity is you need sort of a very regular re-feed of carbohydrates for your brain not to sense that your carbohydrates are crashing. And it doesn't actually matter what your total blood glucose is, it just matters how quickly is it changing. 

Kirk Parsley:
So if your physiology gets to a point where your blood glucose, even though it may be twice as high as it should be, it starts changing very rapidly and it starts going down too quickly, your brain will wake you up, your body will produce too much of stress hormones and you'll wake up, and you'll have a hard time sleeping. So those people obviously need some slow absorbing carbs before they get just sleep at night if they want to have a good chance of going to sleep. People who go on like a really, say like a really strict paleo diet or a ketotic diet, now they're actually having the opposite effect. Because their brain is now running primarily off of ketones, not primarily, but to a large degree off of ketones. It's still primarily blood glucose, but their brain is still really sensitive to it.

Kirk Parsley:
They have great insulin sensitivity, but they just don't have much glucose to deal with because they aren't eating carbohydrates or they're not eating significant amounts of carbohydrates. So those people probably the most important thing for them is to ensure that they have enough fats, medium chain triglycerides that are going to lead to ketone bodies to where their ketone level isn't going to crash and then caused them to wake up in the middle of the night. And then there's everything in between that. There's a million variables in between that. So it's not a super simple answer.

Kirk Parsley:
What I always tell my private clients, so when I work with people, I work with them for a year, it's an annual program. And the first thing we always work on is sleep. Unfortunately, there's just a lot of playing around you have to do. You have to figure out what's right for you and there is no right answer there. I can't tell you definitely carbs before you go to bed or definitely don't eat carbs before you to go to bed or definitely don't eat an hour before you go to bed or definitely eat at least four hours. Like, I can't say that. It's rules of thumb, basically. And what I see with my clients is at the very beginning of the year, we have to be really, really, really careful about when the time that they're eating, the times that they're exercising, the time that they're working to get them good sleep.

Kirk Parsley:
Once you're more metabolically flexible and metabolically stable and yes, metabolically durable, you can play around with stuff a lot more. It's like getting, right? When you're really out of shape, there's not a whole lot of exercise you can do. You're not putting yourself at risk of hurting yourself or overdoing it. Once you're in pretty good shape ... And at the beginning, you need to be super disciplined, right? It's like if you know you're 40 pounds overweight, and you haven't worked out in 10 years, you need to be really disciplined, but you shouldn't be doing a ton. You're going to slowly work your way up, and you're just going to be very regimented and very careful, and you're going to measure all sorts of stuff. But once you're in pretty damn good shape, it's like, why are you going to waste all your time doing that anymore? It's like for that extra 2 to 3% of performance isn't that important unless you're making a living doing that or something? So that's the best answer I have.

Melanie Avalon:
I mean, that's pretty much what I advocate as far as diet goes. I mean, there is no one right diet. You really have to find what works for you and supports your chemistry in your body.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah. And not everybody responds to the diet they want to respond to either.

Melanie Avalon:
I know.

Kirk Parsley:
I mean, I don't care if my clients are vegans or keto. I don't care. Like, whatever you really want to do, but we're going to do some lab testing and some genetic testing, we're going to find out if it's working. And if it's not working, you're going to have to just admit to yourself that what you want to eat is more important than your other goals. And it's just the unfortunate reality. That's why we had the Olympics. We're not all the same, man. There are people that are just much better at certain stuff than we are.

Melanie Avalon:
All right. So you did mention sleep hygiene a little bit back. Okay, so I'll tell you my ... You can rate my sleep hygiene. This is all the crazy things I do. And some questions that people did want to know was, do they need to be implementing all of these "hacks" and things, especially if they do seem to be sleeping well. So I'm curious what your thoughts are how effective these different things are. So I know like for me, well, starting on the flip side in the morning when I wake up, I do you know bright light exposure.

Kirk Parsley:
How are you doing that?

Melanie Avalon:
I have a, well, open all the windows and go outside. And then I have this daylight device thing that creates a very bright light.

Kirk Parsley:
Like a 30,000 Lux thing and where is that relative to your eyesight?

Melanie Avalon:
It's above so that it's ... It's like slightly above. I'm looking at it right now, it's not on. So that it's like coming-

Kirk Parsley:
I'm sorry. It's 10,000 lux is the number, so it has to be 10,000 lux or higher, and it should be 30 degrees above your line of sight. So coming down onto your eyes is a 30 degree angle. That's sort of normal morning light. But if you're getting up at 11:00 a.m. and you're walking outside, you're blasting your brain. That's a different thing. But Okay, go ahead. Keep going. I like what you're doing.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay. So I'm good so far. Yeah, mine is 10,000 lux. And it tilts the way it's made to tilt so that you can get the angle, but now I'm going to have to measure 30 degrees. Okay.

Kirk Parsley:
Yes.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay. Caffeine, coffee. I'm super sensitive to coffee and I don't know if that's because I think I am and then I read genetically that I am, so that I am. But I will have, I'm not making this up, a spoonful of coffee. Like a spoon. Just like a spoonful. That's all. Like a tablespoon.

Kirk Parsley:
Like a spoon full of liquid coffee or like ground cup.

Melanie Avalon:
No. Like the liquid. 

Kirk Parsley:
Okay.

Melanie Avalon:
I don't know. I feel like it has like a little bit of a hermetic effect. I get nervous about having more coffee. But I do wonder, and that is a big question with caffeine, if maybe it would serve me to have more coffee, because then maybe I'd be more awake earlier and then be more likely to fall asleep later. Yeah. Quick question about that, what are your thoughts on coffee? Do you think it actually supports the sleep cycle?

Kirk Parsley:
If you'll remember, earlier when I was talking about how caffeine works, you shouldn't have a whole lot of adenosine in your brain when you wake up. So you're not really blocking adenosine as much as you're activating adenosine receptors in a different way than adenosine would. So caffeine in the morning is something that definitely promote wakefulness. But it also leads to increase of stress hormones. So if you're somebody who has problems with stress hormones, like chronically high stress hormones actually make you tired, and that actually make you catabolic instead of anabolic. I never got through my whole fight or flight story. But when you go into fight or flight like, you get better at everything. 

Kirk Parsley:
Your pupils dilate and you're taking in more light and you're taking in more peripheral vision, even though you're hyper focused on something, your muscles get stronger and faster and your brain starts working faster. Conduction from your brain to your body, all of that starts working faster. Your pain threshold goes up, your lungs actually open up, you can use more of your lungs. Your blood vessels open up. Your blood glucose rises and you're becoming like Superman, right? When you're in deep sleep, it's exactly the opposite. Like none of that stuff is happening, and all of that energy is going to restoring your body. 

Kirk Parsley:
When you're not in fight or flight, you're somewhere in between those two. So somebody, people like us who are owls, we wake up in the morning and we're still a lot closer to that deep sleep state than we are that fight or flight. We're only like 2% of the way towards fight or flight. Lurks wake up and they're like, they're 25%, 30% there. Like, they have good high stress hormones already going and their body's responding to them really quickly. So my take on caffeine is that if you like caffeine, and it makes you feel better, and you use it in a way to where it doesn't interfere with your sleep later, which primarily means you have to stop drinking it pretty early. I mean, we've never met but the pictures I've seen of you, you seem pretty petite. So you probably can't take a whole lot of anything, would be my guess, without having a pretty large physiological effect from it.

Kirk Parsley:
So if it makes you jittery and she shaky and sweaty, it's probably not doing the right things for you. You would be better off finding probably some sort of herbal tea that this binding, has this chemicals under there binding other neuro-regulating receptors in your brain to promote wakeness that way. For me, if I can stay disciplined enough, nothing wakes me up faster than just like getting out of bed and going for a walk. Doesn't have to be a fast walk and be a hard walk. I can listen to music, I can listen to podcasts, I can listen to nothing. 

Kirk Parsley:
But if I just walk and get my body moving and get my stress hormones up, I get a little bit light therapy, actually, that makes me more awake than anything. But I'd rather just go make a pot of coffee and then like sit down and have a cup of coffee and then I'll get to my walk later. Like get to the gym or whatever. So If you don't like it, I would say don't use it. If it doesn't feel good to you

Kirk Parsley:
If you don't like it, I would say don't use it. If it doesn't feel good to you, I'd say don't use it. Look for herbal teas. You might do better with nicotine, like nicotine mints or nicotine gums. You'll hear a lot about that being addictive. It's not true. It's only addictive if it's inhaled. It's only highly addictive if it's inhaled. If you're using the gums and mints, the effects, chemically, it's nowhere near the same effect, but the effects to your alertness, and memory, and thought process, and all that stuff is pretty similar between nicotine and caffeine. That's why they had cigarette breaks at work, and then coffee breaks and cigarette, and people either went and got coffee, they went and got cigarettes. You kind of choose your poison, whichever one people liked the best.

Kirk Parsley:
But if you don't like it, don't use it. I mean, there's a reason you're not liking it, and the body is way too damn complex, and anybody who tells you they understand it is full of shit because I mean there's thousands, and thousands, and thousands of things going on that we don't even know about, and there's thousands, and thousands of things going on that we kind of know something about. Like we know two-fifths of five-eighths of almost nothing.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay, I'm so glad you brought up some of those things. Okay, so rapid fire followups, just based on what you just said. Nicotine patches, would those be an option?

Kirk Parsley:
Man, that's a good question. I've never studied those. It would be very similar. It's going through more tissues, so that's probably going into lymphatics, whereas your ... so that's going to take longer to reach your cells, and it's going to last longer than a mint or gum.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay. The reason I thought about that is because another thing I do with the coffee that I've recently started doing is I actually, in lieu of drinking it, I still might have like a tablespoon, but I splash it on my face, and I've actually noticed a stimulating effect from it.

Kirk Parsley:
Especially if it's hot.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. Oh yeah, it's not, it's cold. I cold brew it. I cold brew it, actually, with aspirin and it ... I'm just kind of crazy.

Kirk Parsley:
Well, that's a good idea.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. I could go on a whole tangent about aspirin. I think if it didn't have a ... if it wasn't hard on the gut, I think it would be a wonder ... like I could just promote it 24/7.

Kirk Parsley:
I do the 81 milligram enteric-coated one, and I do it for the same reason, to extend the half-life of caffeine. And that's another thing we didn't talk about that I meant to say at the beginning.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, it extends the ha ... I wasn't even doing it for that reason. I was doing it for the anti-inflammatory effects, but true, because like the ECA stack.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah, that's the reason for that the A in the ECA stack, is because it makes caffeine last longer. It extends the half-life of it. But that's something that I didn't cover. Caffeine, the riskiest thing about caffeine is that the half-life of that. So in the physiology world, half-life is if I give you 100 of something, at the half-life, you're only going to have 50 of that in your body, and then at the next half-life you're going to have 25 of that in your body. Right? It's a calculatable period of time.

Kirk Parsley:
The half-life for caffeine is all over the map with people. It has a ton to do with your hormonal state, it has a ton to do with your adrenal state, it has a ton to do with your nutritional state, it has a ton to do with how much you exercise, with your thyroid function, like just about everything. There are some people that the half-life for caffeine is like 36 hours in their body, and there's other people that it's like two. The standard is somewhere around six hours.

Kirk Parsley:
Then another interesting thing, you mentioned hormesis, like a hormetic curve, meaning that you take some of something and it's good, and you take more and it's better, and you take more and it's better, and then at some point you take so much that it actually gets worse. Then the more you take, the worse it gets.

Kirk Parsley:
Interesting, the peak for caffeine is 200 milligrams, which also coincidentally was the ECA stack, right? Once you go over 200 milligrams, it actually starts having a counterproductive effect on your memory, and your focus, and your alertness, and all of the stuff that people are taking it for. And I have a conspiracy theory, and I'm not a-

Melanie Avalon:
I love conspiracy theories.

Kirk Parsley:
I'm not a conspiracy theorist at all, but-

Melanie Avalon:
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I love conspiracy theories, so I'm excited.

Kirk Parsley:
I love them too. They're usually entertaining. This one's kind of lame, but I was actually waiting in a lobby with another sleep doctor, and we were going to the symposium, we were both lecturing, we were waiting for the bus to come get us or whatever, van whatever. And there's a Starbucks right in the lobby, and they have their menus, and on their menus they're telling how many calories are in everything, and then how much caffeine is in all of them. I don't even go to Starbucks, I don't like their coffee, but whatever, all the fancy names like mocha, Grande Frappaccino, cricket, whatever the hell, caramel latte thing.

Melanie Avalon:
Just add "acchiato" to the end.

Kirk Parsley:
And it was like, I can't remember the number, I want to say it was like 1,130 calories, and it had 600 milligrams of caffeine in it, which is three times what you should have. So my theory is that if you start drinking a cup of that coffee, you're going to start feeling pretty good for a while, and then you're going to feel like crap, and you're going to want another cup of coffee.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, I don't find that farfetched.

Kirk Parsley:
Then you put a lot of sugar in it on top of that, and you get a blood glucose crash, and you're on a caffeine crash, you're going to go back for more caffeine and more sugar.

Melanie Avalon:
Yup. No, Starbucks has got it made.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay. Oh, then the other rapid fire question followup, actually there's two, your walk situation, I forgot something, part of my daily hygiene, my alternative to caffeine, cold showers. Do you take cold showers?

Kirk Parsley:
I've been taking nothing but cold showers for probably 30 years.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh wait, I'm talking to a SEAL. What am I ... I know.

Kirk Parsley:
I mean, not all ... Actually, one of my seal buddies was at my house. I just moved into a new place, and he was helping me do some stuff. This was like two weeks ago. And he's a lot younger than I am, so different generation of SEAL. I actually know him from being the SEAL doctor when he was a SEAL. And he was at my house helping me out, and I got out of the ... he took a shower first, and then I went to take a shower after him, and it's just like a little bungalow house I live in, a small place, and the bathroom was all steamed up. I was like, "You take hot showers?" And he's like, "Yeah." I was like, "I would've never guessed that."

Melanie Avalon:
What is this concept?

Kirk Parsley:
And I just assumed that all SEALs were like me, and that I just thought it had something to do with being in such cold water for so long that the sensitivity to cold water is really gone for me. So cold showers are not even kind of unpleasant for me. They don't bother me at all. But they lower my body temperature, and they cool me off. And I live in Austin, so I prefer to take a cold shower. It feels better. I'm usually taking a shower before I'm going to bed, and one of the cues for your body being ready to go to sleep is a lower body temperature. Your body temperature drops about one degree when you're right around the time you're starting to fall asleep.

Kirk Parsley:
Anyways, I'm totally messing up your sleep hygiene thing, and your rapid fire questions. Sorry. Go. Restructure me, reel me back in. Reel me back.

Melanie Avalon:
No, no, no. No, I love it. Let me just say, now I want to switch to all cold showers. I mean, I do the hot shower, and then I do the cold blast.

Kirk Parsley:
Got ya.

Melanie Avalon:
But now I kind of want to do all cold. Love it. The last rapid-fire was CBD, which is not a rapid fire question, but I mean I've heard like in small effects, it's actually stimulating, so I wonder if it could have a place, like small doses that works for the individual in the morning, and then maybe a larger dosage at night to fall asleep.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah, I mean CBD is fascinating. I've been studying it. I mean, I wouldn't say I'm studying it in earnest. I'm not trying to be a world class expert on it, but I've been studying it for probably 10 years or something. It's primarily because California passed that medicinal marijuana law, and I was a doctor at the time, and that kind of came out while I was a young doctor, and I thought, so it was just a curiosity to me. I come from a family with a lot of drug addicts and stuff, so I've always been very anti-drugs for myself. But I don't think, I'm not anti-marijuana at all. I think it's ridiculous it's even considered a drug.

Kirk Parsley:
But the interesting thing, like what I was saying earlier, is that there's thousands of things that we don't even know about, and then there's thousands of things that we kind of know about. Well, CBD is one of the things that we kind of know about. Cannabinoid receptors were found before they realized that cannabis bound cannabinoid receptors, and that's how they ended up being called cannabinoid receptors. So an endogenous cannabinoid, something that your body is making, the chemical that your body is making that bind to cannabinoid receptor is obviously different than what's coming from a plant, whether you're eating it or inhaling it or whatever.

Kirk Parsley:
I don't think there's enough great science on the sleep aspect. There's some pretty high level stuff about what regions of your brain get activated, and take up less glucose, which regions of your brain become more active, and which regions become less active. That seems to be, from what I remember, kind of broken up into sort of like three different categories. So if we take our owls and are larks, there's another one in there. And not everybody has the same number of CBD receptors. There's more than one type of CBD receptor. I'm not even going to guess, I mean, I know there's at least like six or eight or something, there could be 50 for all I know. I can't remember there.

Kirk Parsley:
But I would say it's a lot like the nutrition, give it a shot, see if it works. I've used CBD with my eldest son, who's in college, for anxiety, and it seemed to work pretty well for him, and he thought he slept better. I have lots of adult clients that use CBD as an adjunct to a sleep aid. But the research, the only cautionary research that I have seen on it is that your sensitivity to CBD decreases fairly rapidly, so you'll need progressively more. But as we've talked about with a few other things, it's also a hormetic curse, so if you take too much, it can actually become a stimulant.

Kirk Parsley:
So the short answer is, I don't know, but it's something that I think is worth tinkering around with. The THC component is definitely very, very consistently that helps people fall asleep, it distorts the quality of their sleep, and the tolerance to that goes up super fast. Like within a month, you need 10 times more than what you started with, and then it eventually just becomes noneffective because you would just have to take way too much of it, ends up having way too many different physiological effects. So if anybody's using a CBD product that has THC in it, I just caution them to use as little THC as possible. The two do work better together, but if you're relying on the THC to get you to sleep, then you're going to be just appointed really quickly.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay, so something to experiment with. I've been experimenting with it for about probably a month now, and I really like ... I think once I find the right dosing for me, I really like the effects it has.

Kirk Parsley:
I've tried it myself. I can't even tell I've taken it. Maybe I don't have any CBD receptors. I also tried smoking pot a couple of times in my life, and I just had-

Melanie Avalon:
No response.

Kirk Parsley:
... no enjoyment of it whatsoever. I was like, "I don't know why anyone would do this." It just made me tired, that's it. It made my mouth dry, it made me tired, and my brain is going really slow, that's all that happens to me. I don't know, didn't like it.

Melanie Avalon:
It seems like, I don't know, sometimes I've tried it and it has a very distinct, very quick effect, very obvious, and then sometimes not really. So it's hard to know. There's so many factors with so many things. So the other morning thing I do is I turn on my Joovv, red light device, and I really like the red light. I mean, I've heard that the red light spectrum, it would be mimicking the rising and setting sun, so using it in the morning and evening. I don't know how you feel about that.

Kirk Parsley:
I don't have an educated opinion on that. I mean, it seems logical. I haven't read any of the literature on red light itself. If you're talking about near IR or far IR-

Melanie Avalon:
It's red, and NIR.

Kirk Parsley:
NIR.

Melanie Avalon:
Near.

Kirk Parsley:
Near. So it's near, and it's red. Yeah. Yeah, so I mean, I could definitely see that because the near IR is a great anti-inflammatory and immune response elevating, so you would get like more lymphatic flow, and all that stuff. So I could see that, I could definitely buy into that working. I mean, I love the saunas with the near and the far IR. My patients, my clients who use those things, it's probably one of the biggest interventions, if not the biggest intervention for over half of my clients, is getting just their daily sauna treatment with a near and a far.

Kirk Parsley:
And there's different cycles, and it's something I'd have to review. I haven't read the papers on that in over a year, but it's a cyclical thing, where you have like a peak of near IR, then just a peak of red, and then a peak of far, and then there's ... they kind of overlay each other, and there's some synchronicity to it that seems to work really well.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah, I do know the wavelengths are, as far as how they affect the body, from the literature, I've seen it's very specific. Like you think that you could just kind of get in the range and get something from it. But I looked at these charts, and it's like only at these certain points is it actually having the intended effect.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah, it's very, very narrow, and it's all about, it's 100% about wavelength. You think of like, "Well, it's just red light." That's 437 nanometers, or whatever the hell it is, it's just right around there. But near IR, you can't see, and far IR, you can't see. I was like, "All right, well, that's kind of a different thing. What do you do with that?" Yeah, I mean, it's fascinating research. It's one of my favorite things to tinker around with right now, and read about. I wouldn't call myself an expert on it, but I am a firm believer that there's huge benefits to that.

Melanie Avalon:
So I'll come right back to that briefly, but then, for the bulk of the day, I do practice intermittent fasting. I do the later eating window. So that's my day. I find that it supports my alertness, for sure. Then I power through the day, try to do lots of physical activity, movement, active exercise. I'm not a big gym goer, but I like to be constantly moving, which I find really important.

Melanie Avalon:
Then come evening, this is where all the real hardcore sleep hygiene starts coming in. So starting around when the sun is still up, but I feel like it's not super bright, I put on blue blocking glasses that are clear so they don't actually change the color. I have a whole protocol. So I put on first the blue blocking ones that block 90% of blue light, but they're clear so they don't change the color of my surroundings.

Melanie Avalon:
Then I transition to like yellow ones that block even more, and also make things look less blue. And then right before I go to bed, I put on those, I don't know if you have the ... what are they called, the true dark, like the red ones?

Kirk Parsley:
No, I don't. I know what they are, but I don't have them.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah, so I put those on right at the end, and those have a very pronounced effect on me. They block all blue, they make everything look really red, and I find those really, really effective. I have a sauna, so I have a Sunlighten far infrared.

Kirk Parsley:
Yes.

Melanie Avalon:
So I do that in the evening. Do you think it matters when the sauna treatment is done?

Kirk Parsley:
I don't think so. I've seen the ... Yeah, I mean, most of the research I've read was given to me by Sunlighten. If you go to like their sleep protocol in there, you can see what I was talking about with they'll actually show you on a wave form diagram of like when you're getting IR, or when you're getting near and when you're getting far, and how they're overlapping over the time period that you're in there. Does the solo have like the little iPad mat mounted in it where you can do the programs?

Melanie Avalon:
Not an iPad mounted.

Kirk Parsley:
Oh, okay.

Melanie Avalon:
That would be really nice. It has this unit where you [crosstalk 01:55:52]-

Kirk Parsley:
Well, it's not an iPad, but it's like a tablet attached to the wall where you select your different protocols and stuff. Did not have that?

Melanie Avalon:
It does not.

Kirk Parsley:
Okay.

Melanie Avalon:
No.

Kirk Parsley:
I've never been in one of the solos. I've only been in the two and three man ones.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay. Yeah, it looks like a dome type thing that you lay in.

Kirk Parsley:
Oh, that one. Okay, okay. I was thinking the solo was the one person one. Okay, yeah, yeah, I know what you mean.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. So you lay in it, and it has like the light therapy stuff. I like it. I'm looking at it now. So I do that. I find that really effective. Then when it's night, like I said, I get kind of productive like 7:00 to 10:00, but after I've done all my work, I have my lights all turned to red hues, which creates a really lovely look, turn on my Joovv again with the red light, and wine, alcohol. That's not a quick question, I know, but I mean, I'm a big proponent of wine for health. Historically, I drank more wine in the evening. Now I have substantially less. Now I only drink like organic dry farm wines, which I find really, actually, important. I don't know what your thoughts are on alcohol and sleep. I know that's a big question. Two questions. Can a person, do you think, have alcohol in their lifestyle and support a healthy sleep rhythm?

Kirk Parsley:
I have no problem with people drinking alcohol. And this kind of ties into a question that we haven't gotten to that I know your readers wanted to cover, is if I don't feel like I have any sleep problems, should I be stressing about my sleep problems? Or should I be stressing about whether I'm getting good sleep. Absolutely not. There's lots of other stuff to worry about. That's like saying, "If I'm not fat, should I be worried that maybe I am fat and I'm not seeing it?" It's like no, if you feel like you're sleeping well, and you have good energy, and your life's working out, don't get too geeky about this.

Kirk Parsley:
I would just say that as you start noticing what most people call aging, like I'm just getting ... Really, aging is what? Getting dumber, fatter, slower, colder, and weaker, and being in a little more pain. So as that part of life kind of starts creeping up on you, I would say sleep is your go-to thing.

Kirk Parsley:
There's some interesting studies about that. I mean, it was done with fruit flies, but a whole diatribe, we won't get into, that there's some reason to believe that, just like we kind of always thought, we're pretty bulletproof when we're young, our hormones are really high, our gut biome is totally different, what we absorb, how much rest we need, how quickly we repair, everything is different when we're younger. And nutrition seems to be one of those things as well.

Kirk Parsley:
Right around 40, it seems like nutrition becomes of paramount importance. Five years before, you could get away with eating burgers and fries, and drinking beer, and being lean, and you can't do that anymore five years later. That's a whole different diatribe. But sleep, sleep is the same way. Everybody performs better with their ideal level of sleep, which like I said, doesn't vary very much. It doesn't vary significantly. It's 30 minutes one way or the other. And obviously, if you overextend yourself and you work way harder than you usually work, either with your brain or your body, and you're really tired, you're going to need more sleep. If you're training to be an Olympian, you're going to need more sleep. I mean, that's obvious. You're doing more than people ordinarily do.

Kirk Parsley:
But as far as the alcohol goes, I have no problem with alcohol. I mean, alcohol has, like I said, it has negative impacts on your sleep architecture. But when I say that, I'm talking about people who are using alcohol as their primary sleep aid. So one of the things that alcohol is really good at is decreasing stress hormones. It decreases your cognitive, like your emotional and cognitive perception of how stressful your environment is, which has its own benefits, whether or not, even if your stress hormones stayed the same, the way your brain is dealing with their stress hormones is not different.

Kirk Parsley:
I would recommend, so if anybody had insulin sensitivity issues, I would say get the purest type of alcohol you can possibly get. Right? So drink probably liquor and soda water as opposed to beer or wine, especially a white wine or some things that have a lot of sugar in it. There are people who have sensitivities to tannins, and other things that are in the skin of the grapes that end up in the wine, all of the pycnogenols, and just like hundreds of different little chemicals in there. Some people don't process those very well. And red wine ...

Kirk Parsley:
This isn't meant to be a liquor conversation, but the overall is a couple of drinks, I think is fine, and the rule of thumb is basically as far away from bedtime as possible, which doesn't mean start drinking the minute you wake up. It's just like as early in the day as it's reasonable to kind of get your wine down. Your wine down and your wind, with a d, your wind down as early in the evening as you could do that, the better.

Kirk Parsley:
Then, I also always tell people to have at least 16 ounces of water for every alcoholic drink just because it does dehydrate you. That's one of the reasons that people have poor sleep quality when they drink, is because of the dehydration. And if you're somebody who's prone to be groggy, even after a couple of drinks or something the next day, it helps a lot with that as well.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay. I like that answer. I like that answer. I start my dinner, one meal a day protocol, with the wine, rather than having it at the end. So it does tend to be substantially before I go to bed. So love hearing that.

Kirk Parsley:
Good.

Melanie Avalon:
Then when I actually go to bad, so the dark red glasses are on, I turn off my wifi ... We don't have to go on a whole EMF, wifi tangent. But I turn off my wifi, my actual bed, I turn down the thermometer or the temperature. I like it at 64 degrees, which I got my first bill, I just moved to Atlanta and I just got my first energy bill. Oh my goodness. And it's summer right now.

Kirk Parsley:
$6,000.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah, it was ridiculous. I called my mom, I was like, "Mom, is this normal?" But yeah, so I do make it super cold. I also have a chilly pad, which I'm obsessed with. Oh my goodness, it's amazing.

Kirk Parsley:
I have one of those as well.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, you use one? Yeah, I will never go back. Like, where was this my whole life? Basically, for listeners, it's a pad that you put on your bed and it uses water. You can make it hot too, but who would want that?

Kirk Parsley:
Yup.

Melanie Avalon:
It keeps you cold.

Kirk Parsley:
Well, hot is actually better for naps.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh really? Interesting.

Kirk Parsley:
Yup.

Melanie Avalon:
And we didn't even talk about naps. We'll have to save that for next episode.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah, we'll have to save that for next round.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah. Then I have a wifi EMF blocking canopy, which I know some people think is crazy, but I've definitely noticed a difference with it. I have a grounding mat, I have blackout curtains, I use earplugs, I have a sleep mask. I think that might be it. So you can rate my sleep hygiene. And what would you recommend for sleep hygiene for others? Oh, and then I do gratitude habits and stuff.

Kirk Parsley:
And you take Doc Parsley Sleep Remedy.

Melanie Avalon:
And I do! Oh my goodness, I left out the main one. I left out the main one. I did until my bottle ran out like two days ago, and it's not available right now.

Kirk Parsley:
No, we just got another batch today.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, thank goodness. Thank goodness. Yeah, that was my final question was the sleep remedy. I can't believe I forgot. That's the best. That's the whole reason I wanted to have you on. Two hours later, oh my goodness.

Kirk Parsley:
What I would say about your sleep routine is that you are ... I'm actually going to start using you as the example. You're the premier example of what I tell people all the time, is that the number one factor for getting good sleep is believing that sleep is very important, and making it a priority. With everything you've said, there's no way to contest whether or not you consider sleep to be a priority, with all the stuff that you've done.

Kirk Parsley:
Once you have convinced yourself that sleep is super important, and one of the ways I recommend people do this, if nobody on this podcast gets anything out of this or tries anything we've said, the one thing I would like at least one person to do is a seven day sleep challenge. Right? Everybody has 30 day challenges, and 90 day challenges. This seven days, right? Seven consecutive days, and it's going to take you some time to prep for this, take a couple of weeks kind of to get ready because you're going to have to move your schedule around and have people maybe pick up your kids and crap, who knows? But if you make sleep your number one priority for seven days, you will believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that sleep is the most important thing for your health. And I'm not saying that you have to sleep all day, I'm just saying that you're focused on it 100%.

Kirk Parsley:
So if people can convince themselves that they need sleep, and they have a computer, they don't need me. They can get on there. I mean, there's a billion articles they can read about all different kinds of sleep hygiene, they can read about all different kinds of rituals, and all kinds of devices. As long as it's working, go for it.

Kirk Parsley:
But I like to simplify sleep hygiene down to two things. There's really only two things to sleep hygiene, and all we're essentially trying to recreate, or all we're really trying to do is to recreate our ancestral conditions. So you block the light, you block the blue light in your eyes three to three and a half hours before you want to go to sleep. That's the ideal. Now, you can do it with glasses like you're talking about. That's the simplest solution. Then you can move up to different light bulbs in your house, and then you can move to three different levels of glasses, which I've never heard before in my life, so you're the winner there. That's amazing. You can take that as far as you want to, right?

Kirk Parsley:
You can take that as far as you want to, right. The blackout is a sensory thing. The cool, we'll add the cool in there, but the coldness. So ancestrally, the sun went down, the light changed in your eyes. You can make that light change in your eyes right now. Every adult on this planet has the power to do that. Whether it's just buying glasses, or turning off the damn lights in their house and using candles, or whatever it takes, but get rid of the blue light in your eyes. About three hours before you go to bed, start decreasing that and taking it down to almost nothing.

Kirk Parsley:
That leads to a ton of physiological changes in your brain, which we talked about. One of those is that the production of melatonin, which is really all my product does, is give you all the ingredients to make melatonin in your brain and a very, very slight dusting of melatonin.

Kirk Parsley:
And then another thing that happens is, I told you about the neuropeptide GABA. GABA increases in your brain. And what GABA does is it slows down your neocortex, which is what we think of when we see a picture of a human brain. The part that has all the wrinkles all over it, that shape. That's how we interact with our environment. That's what that part of our brain does. That's what makes us the smartest animals on the planet, is because we have all, there's so much meaning in everything we see, and everything we hear, and everything we feel and everything we touch, and GABA's job is to diminish how much our neocortex is interacting with our environment. So if you get rid of the light, then you start getting rid of the sensory, right? So the EMF is a sensory, which is one of the reasons that EMF tent works for you. It's the light coming through your windows, even if you have on your blue-blocking glasses, that's still a sensory, that's still an interaction with the environment. Whereas if there's darkness in there, there's nothing to interact with, right?

Kirk Parsley:
So if you've ever had the experience of being super tired, and all you want to do is go home and go to sleep, and one of your friends talk to you into going to Happy Hour and you have a couple of drinks, you should be more tired, because now you've just drank alcohol, which should make you more sleepy. But now you're feeling wide awake, and you're wide awake because you've completely overcome the GABA pathway, that GABAergic pathway that's slowing down your brain.

Kirk Parsley:
Your brain is actually accelerating. You're paying more attention to your environment. You're like, it's loud. You're having to try hard to listen, you're talking louder. There's, you might be interested in the goings-ons of other people, or members of the opposite sex, or the television, or whatever. So there's all sorts of things going on that are stimulating your brain, and you're overcoming that. So even if you were wearing blue-blocking glasses, you're not going to feel sleepy, because you've overdone, you've over-stimulated and overpowered the GABAergic system, I think it's called actually.

Kirk Parsley:
So those are really the only two things going on. Decrease the amount of intensity, and of interaction with your environment. So you can't wear blue-blocking glasses, keep your house really cool, have an EMF tent, do all of this stuff, but sit at your computer with efflux going on and work on a really stressful work project until 9:59, and then go get in bed at 10 o'clock and go, "Why am I not asleep?" at 10 30. It's not going to work, because that's the GABA pathway. So you have to embrace both. Don't stimulate your brain, decrease all stimulation to you and your brain, and decrease the light in your eyes.

Kirk Parsley:
That's sleep hygiene. That's really all it is. There's a million little variables on how to do that, and a million little gimmicks and products and so forth to help you do that, but that's all they're doing. The only additional thing that you do, that I didn't talk about is, because of course HVAC hasn't existed all that long on the planet, relative to human existence. Our body temperatures do go down once the sun goes down. And like I said earlier, one of the cues for your body and brain really wanting to be asleep, is a slightly lower body temperature. So, sleeping in a cool environment, and you're at the very bottom end of all the research, which is 64 to 68 degrees is the ideal sleeping temperature. So I'd say you're doing everything bang on, and hopefully you sleep well. We didn't even talk about that. You say you do all these things, but besides sleeping from 2 to 11, how do you sleep?

Melanie Avalon:
I think my main issue with sleep is that I am constantly more just worried about if I'm going to sleep. So it's a mental thing, and then judging myself about going to bed late and sleeping in late. I think those are probably the worst factors for me. And also it really depends on my state of digestion, I found is huge. It's really interesting though, hearing all of that. I can see now how one can make the argument that something like meditation could, if somebody was really in tune with it, could replace all of these things, which is meditation, because if they could get their brain to not react to stressors, then it's the one size fits all solution, in a way, but it's just so hard for people to get there with that. I haven't been able to get there, personally.

Kirk Parsley:
I want to back up, and I want to answer a question that you sent me over email, that we didn't talk about, just because I think this is the most important question of all the questions we're going to answer in this podcast.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, I'm super excited to hear.

Kirk Parsley:
The answer to, "What do you do when you can't fall back asleep?" Right, so that's the big one. As I told you, a lot of people can exhaust themselves to the point where their brain's just like, "Dude, you're going to sleep whether you want to or not." Bam. And then go through a sleep cycle and then they wake up, and then they can't get back to sleep. Stress hormones, right? There could be other reasons behind that.

Kirk Parsley:
but here's my recipe for the sleep hygiene. So I told you, there's only two principles, decrease the light, decrease the stimulation. The practical aspect of that is, you set an alarm clock that says, this is my time to start getting ready to go to bed. Alarm clock, right? So it goes off an hour, hour and a half, whatever you choose, before you go to bed. This is where I'm really going to start taking my bedtime preparations seriously, once this goes off.

Kirk Parsley:
Now this is exactly the same as your morning alarm clock. It's no more negotiable. If you have to set your alarm clock to get up at 7 o'clock to be to work on time at eight o'clock, you don't get to sleep in to 7:30 or 8 o'clock just because you want to, right? It's important. So it's just as equally as important. And if you want to just watch one more episode of your show, or whatever, like just-

Melanie Avalon:
I don't do any of that, because I find it too simulating.

Kirk Parsley:
But there's people who are just like, "Oh, just one more episode." And then I say, "Okay, here's the rule, don't stay awake for anything that you wouldn't get up early for." So-

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, I like that.

Kirk Parsley:
So if you say, "I just want to watch one more episode," I say, "Well, just go to sleep, and then set your alarm clock an hour early and wake up an hour early, and watch that extra episode." Of course, nobody's going to do that. So the alarm clock is the key for this. And I'm fortunate enough in my life to where I don't need an alarm clock. I go to bed when I go to bed, I wake up when I wake up. Most of the world isn't like that, and I realize that. So the way this works is, you set an alarm clock. Now it's time to start getting ready for bed, and then there's a time to go to bed and you'd go to bed, just like you do anything else.

Kirk Parsley:
Just as disciplined, you go to bed when you're supposed to go to bed. Just like you make your little kids go to bed when they're supposed to go to bed, you go to bed. And then you lay in bed, and you meditate, and you relax and you breathe, and you do progressive muscle relaxation, or whatever it is, I don't care. Listen to an app, listen to guided meditation, whatever it is that you do that helps you wind down, if you need that, and you fall asleep.

Kirk Parsley:
Now the second part is, your morning alarm is in your drawer, it's under a towel, it's under your bed. It's whatever. You can't see it. You can't have a clock in your room, not because of the EMF, but because you don't ever want to know what time it is. Because it doesn't matter what time it is. While you were awake, while you were alert, while you were smart, while you were making conscious decisions on how to improve your life, you decided you needed to sleep during this block of time.

Kirk Parsley:
Renegotiating that in the middle of the night when you wake up, sleep deprived, is not a good idea, right? It's like forming a business plan and then saying, "Let's get drunk and reevaluate the business plan." Because your brain's not working very well, so when you wake up in the middle of the night, you don't look and see what time it is. If you have to go to the bathroom, get up and go to the bathroom, use as little light as possible. Get back in bed, lay back down and just say, "I'm going to lay here and I'm going to breathe, or I'm going to meditate, or I'm going to do whatever my calming thing is. I'm going to lay here until my alarm clock goes off." And if the alarm clock goes off 15 minutes later, great, you got 15 minutes more of meditation and relaxation, you're probably going to feel better. If your alarm clock's not going to go for another three or four hours, you're going to fall back asleep.

Kirk Parsley:
But I can almost guarantee you that if you wake up in the middle of the night, and you go to the bathroom, and you come back and you look at your clock, and you see what time it is, and you get back in your bed and you start thinking, "Man, I'm really not all that sleepy, and I got to get up at this time, and if I could fall asleep in the next 36 minutes, then I could get this much sleep," and now you're actually creating more stress hormones. You're making your brain awake.

Kirk Parsley:
So you never know what time it is, because it doesn't matter. There's an alarm clock to tell you when to get ready for bed, there's an alarm clock to say when you go to bed, there's an alarm clock to say when you get out of bed, and the time doesn't matter. You calculate that time out well in advance, and you never need to see it. If the noise isn't there, you don't need to do it.

Melanie Avalon:
That's revolutionary. I don't think I've actually heard that idea. I'm doing that tonight. I'm excited. I'm so excited. I'm really excited. Oh, wow. Okay. I'm like really excited at this moment. And now I also want to set up, I have a clock that is like the daylight clock, that uses light to wake you up. I haven't installed it yet. Oh, wow. I'm so motivated right now, and I feel really good.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay, so back to the question about the sleep remedy. How does it work? And listeners? I will say it does work. It is amazing. Like I said, I've been taking it since it was called Sleep Cocktail.

Kirk Parsley:
Greatest marketing name ever. That's why you don't put a doctor in charge of building any kind of marketing campaign. But the SEALs called it a Doc. Parsley's cocktail. Like, "Do you take the Doc. Parsley Cocktail?" So we just went with that. Yeah, because they were the reason I made it anyway, sure, they just gave me so much crap about having to go buy all the separate ingredients everywhere, and it was so expensive, and so we formed it, and went with the terrible name and reformulated it.

Kirk Parsley:
But, so again, the sleep hygiene part, where I talked about blue light decreasing, changing a bunch of neurochemicals in your brain. When I do lectures often talk about the tryptophan coma that people talk about, I think about with related to Thanksgiving and turkey. Turkey doesn't have any more tryptophan in it than any other meat, but we just don't tend to overeat other meats as much as we do turkey on Thanksgiving, so that's why it's associated with that.

Kirk Parsley:
So, you eat a bunch of tryptophan, tryptophan then becomes 5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptophan, with the help of vitamin D three and magnesium, can become serotonin, and then serotonin becomes melatonin, and then melatonin does a thousand other things in your brain. But one of the main things that it does is, it decreases your brain sensitivity to stress hormones, which is like slowing down your brain, slowing down your interaction with the world. And then it leads to a release of the neuropeptide called GABA, which is then literally going around and slowing down your brain and making it harder for your brain to interact with the environment. That's all that's in my supplement. There's no magic, there's no tricks.

Kirk Parsley:
The idea was obviously, when guys were on Ambien, and they were addicted to Ambien, they were taking the SEAL mentality of, "One is good, two is great, and three is fantastic," right? So they were taking two or three times the recommended dosage, they're drinking that, taking it out with three or four cocktails, and then they're getting three or four hours of sleep, and then popping up and going to work and feeling like crap. Big surprise. But yeah, I couldn't just take their Ambien a way and say, "Don't drink and just suck it up." Right? I had to give them something.

Kirk Parsley:
So my hypothesis, my philosophy on it, was just, "All right, what happens from the time the sun goes down until you actually fall asleep?" Well, it's the production of what I just said, in those pathways, it's like, "All right, well how can we support that?" Well, we just make sure that all that's there. So we just super concentrate everything in your brain that would have concentrated in your brain, had you spent three hours getting ready for bed. And that's why I say nothing in there lasts very long. It's just, it's all stuff that's already in your body, so it just all gets absorbed. It ends up in your kidney and in your bladder and your colon within three or four hours. The pH GABA that was in there, it's just a form of GABA that I added right before I started making the product. Somebody introduced me to it. I wasn't even using that with the SEALs, but it crossed the blood-brain barrier better, so I said, "Why not? All right, we'll use that." That's fine. We weren't using as good of a magnesium as we use now, so whatever.

Kirk Parsley:
So that's really all there is to it, is I'm going to give you all of those substrate, there's tryptophan and then there's 5-hydroxytryptophan and then there's vitamin D three in there, there's magnesium in there. There's a little bit of melatonin in there. There's GABA there. And now, because it's available and the science is good on it, there's an amino acid called l-theanine, which helps GABA do its job. So it potentially, it makes GABA more effective in your brain and your body. So that's a new ingredient with this new formulation. We were doing that back then as well, but I couldn't afford to put that in the original product.

Kirk Parsley:
And then there's another product that was super, super expensive when I first started making this, I would have had to charge like $300 a box to make a profit, this stuff was so expensive for just this one ingredient, and it's called phosphatidylserine. But now that's really common and easy to get. It's still fairly expensive, as far as ingredients go, but we added that and the research on that is pretty clear that it decreases cortisol production. So again, it decreases stress hormones, and that's really more for the population that's having problems falling asleep because of stress hormones. And it's a pretty modest dose of that, just because some people are really sensitive, I don't want to make anyone groggy, but it's just a little added boost, will help you decrease your stress hormones a little bit.

Kirk Parsley:
And that's the new formulation, the new capsules. Like I said, I think we just finished that run today. They have, the only real difference with those is they have magtein in them, which is the magnesium is magnesium L threonate, which crosses into the brain really well. So that works really well. So, both the drink and the capsules, and everybody who's tried them, everybody who's tested them, 100% across the board say it works better and they all taste better.

Melanie Avalon:
So that new version, it's not out. So I don't have that version right now, right? The version- [crosstalk 02:25:49]

Kirk Parsley:
You don't have that. You don't have the new version out. No, but if you, I was actually just on the team call right before this call, and if it's not available online right now, it'll be on available online tomorrow, because we just finished that, and the new powder. We still have some apple cinnamon drink that's still on sale, but the new version, I think, is about two weeks away and we're going to do some pre-sales, because it's going to cost a little bit more. But if anybody's already on subscription, we're just going to keep their price the same. And if anybody buys it on the presale, then we're going to give them the legacy price, I think. I think the price went up like four bucks, or something like that.

Kirk Parsley:
But yeah, so that's where we're at with that. It's nothing super fancy. It's all really meant to be a supplement, that's what supplements are for. They supplement, it's not the solution, it's a supplement to the solution. Make sure that everything's there. I always give the metaphor that it's like I'm bringing you a bunch of lumber to the construction site, and laying it all out where it should be and then walking away. It's not the construction crew. I don't have any control over what your brain does with it. We're just, that's your sleep hygiene component, right. And that's, your overall physiological health at that point, is how well your brain uses all of that stuff, but we're just making sure that it's all there, there's no deficiencies that are keeping you awake.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, I love that so much. It's so in line with everything, I think, as far as... Because ideally I think we would get everything naturally, from food and our environment, but everything is just so crazy today, that doesn't often happen, and so having this solution to address these sleep needs naturally is just... With these natural substrates that our brain needs to ensure sleep, is just wonderful.

Melanie Avalon:
And we do have a special offer. Thank you, Dr. Parsley, for this, for our listeners. So if you go to sleepremedy.com and use the code, Melanie Avalon, you will receive 10% off your sleep remedy order, or an additional 10% if you choose to do subscription. We're also going to do an Instagram giveaway. I love Instagram giveaways so much. So just go to my Instagram account, it's @MelanieAvalon, and then there will be a post there. You'll see it. Follow my account, follow Kirk Parsley's account @sleepremedy, comment your favorite sleep hack and tag a friend, and you'll be entered to win a bottle of Sleep Remedy.

Melanie Avalon:
Well, thank you so much for that. Here's my final question, I promise and it's just because I ask every single person on this show this final question, and it's because I've realized how important gratitude is and mindset and everything. So my last question is, what is something that you're grateful for?

Kirk Parsley:
Geez, there's so many things that I'm grateful for. I would have to say that I'm, I'm most grateful just for my general overall health and wellbeing, so that I can do all the things that are important to me and spend times with the people that I want to spend time with, and enjoy my life. And without the health, I couldn't do it. You can always make more money. You can always make more friends, but without health, without this physical, psychological and emotional health, that makes the whole the world a totally different place and an easy place. And I've been in really broken places before, and I'm really glad that I'm not there anymore. So yeah, just my overall health and wellness.

Melanie Avalon:
Well, thank you, and thank you for what you're doing for everybody else's health and wellness with Sleep Remedy. It's absolutely amazing. And do you think, I said that was the last question, but do you think anybody can fix their sleep issues?

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah, of course. Yeah. I think, again, everything we talked about was meant to be generalized, and not for sleep disease. There are of course disease states around sleep, where you do need help. And I would again recommend, probably, I would advocate probably something very similar to use, is that you do that as naturally as possible. But there are times to use pharmaceuticals, if you have some sort of disease that's preventing you from sleeping.

Kirk Parsley:
But I've never come across, and believe me, given my reputation in this field and the extreme audiences that I deal with, I've had, I'd say they have to be close to, if not the, most challenging sleep clients in the world. And I don't think I'm any kind of phenomenal genius. I just know I've studied this a lot, and I know quite a bit of tricks. I have a lot of tools in my tool bag. And I've never failed, I've never not been able to get somebody to get back to some really good quality sleep. And it's probably only a handful of times that I've ever needed to use a pharmaceutical, and I've never probably used it more than a month or two. So, I think it's within all of us.

Kirk Parsley:
There's extremes, obviously. If you have stage four cancer and you're in the ICU, you have some issues that are beyond my scope of expertise. And your sleep is, unfortunately, the most important thing for you, and probably the thing you're least likely to get fixed anytime soon. So, but there's a very small subset of the population that actually have sleep diseases.

Kirk Parsley:
And a really interesting body of work, it's growing very rapidly right now, is something called chronobiology, and it's the study of psychiatric illness, as associated in its correlation to circadian rhythms. And some of the science there is just mind boggling. It's not super mature, to where, and it's not super accessible to anybody, but there's layman's books on all of it, and they're taking people who have been inpatients, residents in inpatient facilities on anti-psychotics, for thirty years, and with circadian realignment, they're coming off of all of their medications and no longer carrying the diagnosis of having a psychiatric disease.

Kirk Parsley:
And I don't, that's not going to be 100% of them, but it's pretty amazing, I think, how much we underestimate how powerful sleep is, and how much it will fix. I mean there's literally nothing that fixes you faster. No matter what your problem is, where no matter what you're suffering or struggling through, there's nothing that's going to, as far as your physiology, obviously you have to go solve the problem, if there's a problem, but as far as your physiology, your brain and your psychology, and your emotions and all that, nothing fixes you faster than sleep.

Melanie Avalon:
Yeah, I was going to say, actually I remember listening to that podcast with Rob Wolf way back in the day. I remember he asked you, between diet and sleep, what was the primary factor, and you were saying, sleep is. I mean, diet is so important, but sleep is also really, really important.

Kirk Parsley:
Yeah. And Rob even says the same thing in his lectures. When we were on the lecture circuit together, he would say, he'd cut his sleep bit out of his lecture, because I was always lecturing with him, and he would say, "As much as I'm passionate about nutrition, if you aren't sleeping well, none of this matters. So you have to listen to Doc. Parsley as well, for any of this matter, if you're not sleeping well, it doesn't matter what I tell you to do with nutrition. And if you are sleeping well, then let's get that's get on with this, and this is the most, but sleep is definitely the most important part." And yeah, he wasn't doing that to be gracious to me, that's his honest belief system, and that's my honest belief system. And even though it started out as almost a slight of hand, slightly tricky way to talk to SEALs about hormones, I have convinced myself over the course of the last decade that there's nothing more important to our health than sleep.

Melanie Avalon:
Funny how that happens. Well, thank you so much for your time. I know it's valuable and I have enjoyed this conversation more than I can... It lived up to everything, way two and a half hours ago.

Kirk Parsley:
Wow. I feel good about myself. I'm going to sleep well tonight.

Melanie Avalon:
Okay.

Kirk Parsley:
There was a lot to live up to.

Melanie Avalon:
You lived up to it 100%.

Kirk Parsley:
I appreciate it.

Melanie Avalon:
So, thank you so much. And so again, for listeners, the show notes for this episode, the links to Sleep Remedy, everything we talked about, also all the random things I talked about using to support my sleep, all the devices and such. They will be at melanieavalon.com/sleep, that will be the show notes for this episode. So again, thank you so much, Dr. Parsley, and hopefully I will talk to you again in the future. I feel like we could have a whole nother episode, but this has been amazing.

Kirk Parsley:
I'm sure we could. Well, we'll definitely talk again in the future.

Melanie Avalon:
Oh, perfect. Thank you so much.

Kirk Parsley:
Thanks for having me on.

Melanie Avalon:
Thanks.

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