With all the advice on the internet about sleep, how are you supposed to make sense of it all? For us, it comes down to identifying the true experts with the background knowledge and experience to give credible advice. We often find that by learning the origin story of how a particular person was driven to become an expert in a given topic we can get a better sense about the credibility of their advice. That was certainly the case with Dr. Kirk Parsley.
A retired navy SEAL, Dr. K. Parsley has risen to the top of the field of sleep science, but not in the way you might expect. After completing medical school and residency, Doc Parsley (as he’s come to be known online) served as an Undersea Medical Officer at Naval Special Warfare Group One for 4 years. During his tenure, he was instrumental in helping to develop and supervise the SEALs’ first sports-medicine rehab center.
While working in the rehab center, he noticed a pattern among the SEALs who came to see him. Privately, they complained to him of low energy, low motivation, bursts of anger, and symptoms of depression. Many of them also had low levels of testosterone. What confounded Doc is that, as you can imagine, this group of people are some of the fittest on earth. This prompted Doc to look deeper. After some analysis and background research, he realized that all of the SEALs who’d come to him with these symptoms were taking Ambien, a commonly prescribed sleep medicine. Unsurprisingly, sleep is not exactly prioritized by the SEALs and insomnia is a common problem. Consequently, many of their members end up on sleep medications just to get a few hours of sleep per night.
Thinking that Ambien had something to do with the recurrent pattern of complaints, Doc took the initiative to get better educated on the science of sleep. He quickly realized that while this medicine is very effective in knocking people out, the sleep it produces is of very low quality. As he learned more of the details of sleep physiology, he became convinced that poor sleep was the main driver of the SEALs’ symptoms. He realized that he needed to figure out a way to ease them off of the medicine as it is addictive and also suppresses the body’s natural ability to produce hormones that regulate sleep. To facilitate the transition, Doc came up with a protocol based on natural supplements that eventually evolved to become his trademark Sleep Remedy supplement.
Despite the good he was doing for his patients, Doc faced a lot of skepticism from his superiors. Functioning on little-to-no sleep was a point of pride for many of these men, and as Doc soon realized, it’s a point of pride for many everyday people as well. This prompted him to focus full-time on sleep education and health coaching in private practice. He is so convinced that sleep is the bedrock for any health optimization and longevity strategy, that he won’t take clients that do not commit to adjusting their lifestyles to ensure they’re getting a full 8 hours of sleep per night.
If sleep is a topic you--like the SEALs--also struggle with, learning more about Doc Parsley's protocols and findings might be a good next place to look to for possible insights