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How To Boost Your Performance With Better Sleep with Doctor Kirk Parsley

By October 9, 2019 August 11th, 2020 5 Comments

“People’s performance just decrease, decrease, decrease over the course of their life and they don’t recognize it. Everybody does worse on less sleep. Every single person on the planet.” – Doctor Kirk Parsley

The SEALFIT Kokoro camp grew out of Mark’s training for SEAL candidates. In 2007, the SEALFIT program was developed, but since then, many people have wanted to experience the Hell Week simulation. The philosophy behind it is that you should bring the challenge to yourself, before the challenge comes to you anyway. You have the choice of the full, 50-hour Kokoro camp, the 24-hour 20XL version, or the 12-hour 20X. No matter what, these programs will show you that you are capable of 20 times more than you thought you were. Find out more at

Mark talks to his good friend Doctor Parsley (@docparsley) about the importance and physiology of sleep. Kirk Parsley is a former Navy SEAL, a doctor, author and entrepreneur. His book is called “Sleep to Win: How Navy SEALs and Other High Performers Stay on Top”.  Kirk also produces the Sleep Remedy, a mixture of supplements to help your body sleep properly.

Listen to this podcast to find out:

  • Why we often undervalue sleep, especially in the high performance community (HINT: Sleeping too little is often seen as a sign of toughness!)
  • How to stop being “woken up” by things that take up your attention
  • Why we should be teaching kids about sleep and their sleep needs
  • Why proper rest is so important to achieving peak performance

As you guys know, Mark has been using Halo Sport for the last year and half and he has loved it. Halo Neuroscience revolutionized human performance when it debuted Halo Sport in 2016, the first brain stimulator that accelerates muscle memory development. Halo Sport is now trusted by teams and athletes from the U.S. military, Olympics, MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA, and more.

Well they just launched Halo Sport 2 – a fully upgraded Halo Sport at a lower price making this revolutionary technology more accessible to all. It’s fully wireless and has excellent sound quality. It also has an upgraded app with new stimulation data and tracking.

It makes neurostimulation accessible for all with its price point in line with other headphones at $299 and available to pre-order now.

Just go to and use code DIVINE and get an additional discount. Using DIVINE will ensure you get the lowest price available.

The product will ship in June so go now to Code DIVINE

Dr. Parsley’s sleep remedy was designed to help Navy SEALs to overcome some of the sleep challenges that they have as hard-charging individuals. Doc Parsley believes that proper sleep and recovery is absolutely essential to maintain our ability to perform at a high level. His sleep “cocktail” includes a number of supplements to provide our bodies with chemicals naturally produced by the brain to encourage sleep. Commander Divine is a huge fan and encourages members his tribe to try it out for themselves. Enter “unbeatablemind” at the checkout on  to get 10% off.

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We’d love your feedback, please leave a rating and review.


Hi folks. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks for joining me today welcome back. Super-stoked to have you, and as you know I don’t take it for granted because your time is valuable. So I won’t waste it.

My guest today is Doc Parsley, Navy SEAL, sleep expert, good friend of mine… Before I introduce him a little bit more deeply or just bring him on… I just wanted to say, we just finished up our 54th SEALFIT Kokoro event this past weekend. Isn’t that amazing, Kirk? 54.

Kirk. Does that make you feel really good, or does that make you feel really old?

Mark. I was just gonna say, makes me feel kind of old. And it’s the first event in like three years that I lead and I attended the whole thing, and I coached a good chunk of it.

Wow. What a cool experience. Man, the people who are showing up… Kirk you get this, like we’re now since 2007… So do the math… We’re 12 years into it.

Kirk. Yeah.

Mark. And in the early years people would just show up and they’d fail.

And now the word is out and so people have been training really, really hard for these events. Sometimes for over a year. And so, the quality of the candidates is unbelievable.

Kirk. Just like BUD/S itself, right? It’s just like the quality keeps going up.

Mark. Yeah, the quality keeps going up. The quality of the instruction… We can push harder, but also train better. My instructor staff… Like one of my friends, who was my platoon chief at SEAL team 3, Mark Crampton has joined the team.

Now he’s retired. His job, post-retirement as a contractor was to lead the instructor training at BUD/S, so we got that level of quality.

Kirk. Nice.

Mark. And we had very little attrition. I mean, we’d been in the past, seeing a ton of attrition.

Kirk. So, are you still training quite a few guys that are coming to you with the intent of preparing for BUD/S?

Mark. Yeah. I mean, statistically it’s less so, because we have a larger audience of civilians. But I think this class we had like three or four.

Kirk. And do you have like stats on the success rates of people who go through your course? They all crush it, or…

Mark. Yeah, the anecdotal stat is they crush it 90%. That’s what we’ve been saying. Cause there’s no way for us to really get those numbers.

But also, every time I speak to a SEALFIT graduate and I say “hey, what was it like? How many people graduated, and how many did SEALFIT? Generally, we’re seeing that about 1/3 of the graduating classes have all trained with SEALFIT or been to one of the SEALFIT events. It’s pretty cool.

Kirk. Wow. A third. That’s got to be like the biggest uniting factor… I mean other than them being Texans, it’s probably a third. But apart from that its like…

Mark. (laughing) Texans always make it.

Kirk. It’s because of the football out here. BUD/S is easy compared to Texas football.

Mark. Yeah, no kidding.

And I met a guy yesterday, this is really related, but interesting – related to this idea that we’ve been running Kokoro and having some success at the SEALs are actually Mike Mengziano – do you know Megs?

Kirk. Yeah, yeah.

Mark. Retired force master chief. He’s now the mentor and mental toughness coach at BUD/S. So we’ve been an ongoing dialogue – he along with Captain Schoultz – who runs the human performance program – about integrating some of the tools that we use that turn kind of those big four skills into practices.

Kirk. Yeah, I heard Schoultz is heading that up. Is he heading that up from SoCom level, or WarCom level or…?

Mark. It’s actually BUD/S.

Kirk. Oh, it’s at the BUD/S level.

Mark. And then I had a conversation yesterday with Master Chief Butts… Do you know Steve Butts?

Kirk. Steve Butts. Yeah.

Mark. I hadn’t met him, but he’s up at…

Kirk. I know who he is, I’ve never hung out with him or anything.

Mark. So apparently the quality of the sailors coming are good guys, but they’re not tough. And I think they reference… There was an attack on the USS Mays or something like that where the sailors froze up and they wouldn’t man their battle stations.

And it freaked the Navy out. Rightly so.

And so, they brought him in to try to figure out how to teach, or how to you know develop mental toughness in the recruits, at the recruiting command.

And he’s getting ready to retire. So, we’re in a conversation about maybe trying to figure out how to toughen up the Navy per se in the broader sense.

Kirk. Yeah. We haven’t even managed that in our local community, man.

Mark. I know. It’s a cultural thing. It’s just a whole generation that’s grown up a different way than you and I grew up. So, they’re showing up and they’re not able to perform.

Kirk. And they look different – just the general population – like I mean, when I go down to the Riverwalk down here, or if I get on the water out here it’s just like I’m more muscular and more ripped than most of the 25-year-olds I see. Like more than 90% of them.

And by SEAL standards, by my standards, I’m like fat, old, and out of shape, you know? I’m nothing like I was at 25. And I’m looking at these guys going “man, like, how do you guys get girls?” (laughing)

I don’t know. Maybe they don’t.

It’s probably too damn dangerous to get girls anymore. That whole… We won’t get into that.

Mark. Yeah, maybe later.

At any rate, so yeah Kokoro camp is amazing, and we’re still cranking them out. We’ve got one more this year – so that’ll be October 19th – and then we’ll run three next year.

Kirk. Wow.

Mark. March, July and October.

Kirk. And how long do those run for?

Mark. 50 hours.

Kirk. 50 hours.

Mark. So, they go… Yeah, the idea is… It’s not hell week, right? We’re very clear. We’re not trying to create SEALs.

But SEALs who have come back after hell week and visited… The Kokoro grads who go to then become SEALs, they come back and say “you know what? Hell week was actually easy for me, compared to the other kids. Because Kokoro gave me a complete snapshot and confidence to know what I was facing.”

And the first fifty hours are the hardest, and that’s when most people quit. If you make it through the first two and a half, three days then you’re good to go, pretty much.

Kirk. And for me, when I went through BUD/S and I remember like… I’ve caught a lot of shit for saying this, but god’s honest truth – the easiest week for me in BUD/S was hell week.

Because you can’t fail out of hell week, right? I mean you can, but you have to essentially just quit, right?

But every other day of BUD/S…

Mark. You either quit or break your leg…

Kirk. Right, you have to get injured or get… Something has to happen to you. I mean, your performance would have to be so obviously sandbagged, I think, to get dropped out of that.

But for me the anxiety of BUD/S was never quitting. Like, I was never going to quit. I knew that. Like going in.

And I know a lot of people think that and then they eat their words. But “no, I will definitely die here before I quit.”

And Hell week was like “all I have to do is not quit.” and that wasn’t even an option, so “this is makes it easier. All I gotta do is keep going.”

Whereas like the rest of BUD/S, it’s like every other day there’s some sort of test that you could fail, and then you’re done.

You remember back in that day they didn’t have this retread program nearly well oiled like they do now. And you didn’t get multiple attempts. And I remember, with the first couple of weeks at BUD/S – maybe the first week – they do the 50 meter where you jump off the side of the pool, and you have to do a flip, and then no matter how you land – you can just like totally belly flop it, it doesn’t matter – however you land, you can’t come up again. You got to do the other side of the pool, and you come back. And if you come up, you quit – and if you pass out, you fail.

(laughing) it’s like, that kind of sucks. That’s pretty bad odds there. And I was shocked. Like, I think we lost like 20 guys or something, on that day. On their very first conditioning round, we lost like 15 people.

I’m like, “Jesus, this is gonna be quick, man.”

Mark. It does go quick. You know, they still do that, of course. And I was talking to one of our coaches, Mark James – he’s still at BUD/S – and he does all the water evolutions. He’s a master swimmer. He said that now, with the risk management, they have the coaches basically trail them in the underwater swim, and the coaches have fins on. And then they hover above them on the second half.

And right at the end as they touch the wall, they put their arms under them and they haul them out of the pool. They never did that for us. Haul them out of the pool. And then they gotta stand over them, and make sure they’re breathing. And it’s just really interesting.

But it’s all good, cause they’ve had some shallow water blackout deaths.

Kirk. Well, and they had that one guy who died I think was it during pool conflict – the water, the tank tread or something – I remember that was just a few years after I got out, and there was all this controversy about how the instructor had like not followed procedures in giving this guy a training timeout or something like that…

And like they’re trying to prosecute an instructor for having killed this guy, essentially. And I don’t remember, some newspaper called me – I don’t know why me, but somehow, they got my name, and they called me and asked me a bunch of questions about it…

I’m like, “I don’t know the specifics about it, but I would be exceedingly surprised if he faced anything different than anybody else who’s gone through that training.”

And there’s an unfortunate second… If you look at it you look at how dangerous what we do is… I mean, even in training, look at how dangerous that is, and how few people actually die or get seriously injured. Like, it’s a pretty damn safe thing.

But you’re gonna lose people. I mean, that’s life.



Mark. Well you are … You’re a medical doctor and a Navy SEAL – so we can talk SEAL stuff all day long and I’m sure we will continue to do that – but how did you come around to first becoming a doctor and then getting interested in sleep? Because that’s become kind of your specialty. You’re known as the sleep doctor.

Kirk. Yeah when I was when I was a three-year-old child I saw dead squirrel, and it just made me wonder…

Mark. (laughing) you thought it didn’t sleep that well….

Kirk. I haven’t thought of that in so long, but when I was applying to medical school you have all these books you like to you know tried to teach you how to you know do your application, right? And you have to write essays to get in and all this stuff. And they all start off with this cheesy like “when I was a small child, I was so intrigued by biological differences or blah-blah-blah.” or like “I saw a dead squirrel or whatever.”

And so, I started mine out with “when I was a kid, I wanted to be the Marlboro man.” Like I grew up in a redneck, blue-collar family… Like book learning was for sissies. Like totally different.

And every place I interviewed at, they were like “this is the best essay we’ve ever read” and I was like “perfect.”

I mean it’s really surprising to me and anyone who grew up with me that I’m a doctor. Okay I started getting ds and fs in like third grade. Like I was a terrible student my whole life. Dropped out of high school. I have like a tenth-grade education.

Got my mom to sign for me to join at 17, and I wanted to go be a SEAL. I was a pretty good athlete… I don’t know if I would have for sure gotten a d1 scholarship, but I was kind of like in the running. I was in the running with like my buddies, the guys that I was on par with. A lot of those guys got scholarships…

Mark. What sports did you play?

Kirk. My main sport was football, because it’s Texas. And so yeah in Texas there’s football and then everything else is kind of a questionable, homosexual activity. Unless it makes you better at football. So, you can run track and you can lift weights.

But so, I did football. I ran track. I was actually the fastest white boy in Texas for like two years in a row in the 200 meters. Like that was my distance.

I was a pretty good shot putter. Not a great discus thrower.

And I actually started powerlifting in high school, because one of my football coaches was a former power-lifter and he saw some potential in me. And he coached me.

So that was my main stuff. And then of course I did a bunch of martial arts. I did boxing and taekwondo. And some judo and stuff like that.

But it was football and by the time like and Texas is just as bad as all the movies make it look… It’s like when you’re when you’re a pretty good player the coaches go around and talk to your teachers. And they’re like “well, could he do an extra-credit project?” and that.

So, during the football season I had good enough grades to play football. And then just as soon as football is over, I was just like failing every class for the rest of the year.

So, by the time I finished four years of high school I had enough credits to be in a you know a sophomore. So, I thought I was pretty dumb, actually, like I had plenty of people and plenty of evidence to support that I wasn’t a very smart guy, and academics probably wasn’t my path anyway.

So, I wanted to go do the toughest thing I could do. I wasn’t gonna get into college, because my grades were too bad…

So, I don’t know if you remember this, but the talk… Like journalism… Like “60 minutes,” whatever those things are called… It’s long form journalism kind of reporter things… Investigative journalism.

And they did a documentary on BUD/S. And it wasn’t “60 minutes,” it was an organization called “48 hours,” which was very similar in format to “60 minutes.”

And I saw that video, and I watched it probably 20 times in a row. And I was like “that’s what I’m gonna do. Like, those dudes are badasses.”

And I don’t know if you know Crimmins, but Crimmins was kind of like the star of it. He was like the stud of his class and I ended up doing Crimmins retirement physical. Like when he’s getting out. I was like “that’s full circle, man.”

Mark. (laughing) I remember you, old man.

Kirk. It was amazing.

But yeah, so I just wanted to go do this really tough training. And like I didn’t even know that they were gonna pay me to do it. I just thought that…

My dive motivators in Chicago, a guy named Winkler, a Vietnam-era guy – and he took a liking to me. And I got to hanging out with those guys a lot during bootcamp.

And he said something about “dive pay,” or “hazard duty pay,” or something. And I was like “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

And he asked me a bunch of questions, it becomes clear that I didn’t know I was gonna get paid to be in the Navy. It had never occurred to me. I just thought like “I’m gonna live in the barracks, I’m gonna eat in the chow, you’re gonna give me clothes. I’m gonna be out training to kill people or I’m gonna be out killing people. Like what the hell do I need money for?”

Mark. You know what? I would still do it without the money.

Kirk. Yeah. And I was like “I didn’t know I was getting paid.” it’s like “I just wanted to go through this training.” that’s how smart and naive I was.

So anyway, I went through SEAL training and then of course you know back in that day you had to go through an A school, before you could go. And I went to a pretty tough a school. The gunners mate.

Because it had like the electronics component, the E and E that all the ET’s did. Like, you know, the electronic technicians. You had to go through that school. And then gun school. And then you had to learn like gun systems for ships, and missile systems, and hydraulics…

And so, it’s pretty tough training. And I graduated at the top of my class. And I was kind of shocked. And then when I went through BUD/S. Not that that was super academic, but like all the tests we took – I was always one of the top performers.

And so that gave me a little confidence in that world. But then, I was in the teams like everybody else, and in the Clinton administration, we had a lot of downtime. And on deployments and I just started reading a lot of books.

I was always interested in like nutrition, and exercise physiology and just to make myself a better athlete. You know, to make myself bigger, better, stronger, faster.

And I met a girl. Started getting serious. Dating this girl who was getting her master’s degree in physical therapy.

And so, I was reading her text books on deployment. And I was just like “yeah, I’m gonna get out and be a physical therapist.”

And so, I started working at Saint Aygo’s sports medicine center. Or I started volunteering there, because you need a lot of volunteer hours to get into PT school. And then they hired me on pretty quick.

Mark. Was this after the Navy?

Kirk. Yeah, this is after I’d gotten out. And pretty soon – pretty early – I was like, “hey, I don’t really want to be a PT.” it was like a little too limited for me, but worked with… Like it was a healthcare mecca, we had like every kind of health care provider in the world there.

And took a liking to the doctors, they took a liking to me. And they’re like “you should go be a medical doctor.”

I’m laughing going, “yeah, like if you knew my grades… There’s no way I could get into medical school.”

Mark. (laughing) I gotta finish high school first.

Kirk, yeah, so I was in junior college. I had to do two years to junior college just to be able to get into college. And so, the head doctor there a guy named Lee Rice, who still has a practice down in San Diego, he heard me talking to the other doc’s and he came up to me and he said “well, the question isn’t can you get in. The question is would you go, if you could get in?”

And that was a very like SEAL kind of question. And I was like “fuck, of course I would.”

So, he’s like “well then you know what you have to do.”

And I was like “all right, well…”

And interestingly my first year I was out of the Navy, I actually joined his practice and I was going to be his successor of his practice, but it didn’t fit well with what I liked to do at that point.

But total aside. So, anyway I you know went to UCSD as I was applying to medical schools you know this pre-internet you know – not pre-internet, but pre really useful internet. And those Kaplan books that would teach you know that you could go through and look at all the different schools and see what their GPAs were, and their MCATs and all that.

And so, as I’m flipping through this book, I find out that the military has its own medical school. And I’m like “crap, I didn’t know that.”

So, check into it a little bit more – they’ll pay me to go to medical school. And my time from the teams counted towards my pay. And I was like “well that would be great. Because that way I can support…” I was already married, already had a kid, had another kid on the way. I was like “it’d be really great if I could just support my family and go to medical school.” and have no debt coming out, right.

I mean your debt is just the time working… After medical school you got to give them eight years as a doctor in the Navy. But, of course, you’re getting paid for that too. So, it’s not like you’re doing that for free.

And so, it was just a great fit for me. And fortunately, I got in. And I figured I’d get back to the SEAL teams and I did. And you know I got back to the SEAL teams and my plan was to be an orthopedic surgeon. But they always want you to like go out and do some operational medicine, before you come back and finish residency.

Mark. Like dive medical officer stuff?

Kirk. Yeah, so you can go DMO and then you can work with the dive community. Or you can go to flight school, and then you can be a flight surgeon. Or you can just say “put me on a ship.” and they’ll put you on a ship.

And the ship route’s the shortest, but obviously the crappiest too, so I wanted to go back to the teams. And so, I did that.

And when I got there all the team guys would… I mean, you know the teams, like the medical community’s your enemy, right? So, you don’t want to talk to…

Mark. You don’t go unless you’re forced to go.

Kirk. Yeah, I mean, you talk to the medic in your platoon. And like he’s your doctor. Cause you’re not gonna go tell anybody at a hospital any real trouble you have, because they might say you’re not qualified anymore or something. So, everybody hides everything.

But you know, fortunately because I had been a SEAL so recently… This was like 15 years after I’d got out the teams. But there was still two or three dozen guys around that I had either operated with, or trained with.

So, people knew who I was and I had a good reputation and so they came in and closed the door and said “hey man, let me tell you what’s really going on.”

And they had this long list of all these symptoms. And I had no idea. I was just like “I don’t have a clue.”

Mark. What types of symptoms were the common themes?

Kirk. So really what it would be most similar to would be like if I told you there is a 65-year-old, forty-pound overweight man who’s been slogging away – like drilling holes in sheet metal – for 40 years. Or you know working in a cubicle.

And he sits down in front of you and starts telling you his problems. Like that’s what they sounded like, right?

But of course, they’re not. They’re like jacked and all ripped up. But, you know, they’re talking about how their motivation has gone down. They’re talking about how they can’t control their body comp very well.

As just a little aside – as part of my questioning, you know – they would mention that they were taking sleep aids. And that they weren’t sleeping all that great. And that they couldn’t really control their moods, and they were snapping at their kids, and they were having bad kind of relationship issues with their wife.

And they just didn’t seem as motivated. They weren’t as strong and couldn’t push as hard. Their sex drive wasn’t really there.

And I was like “all right, well let’s just do a bunch of labs. Because I don’t know… I don’t even have a guess. So, let’s just study everything.”

So, I just started pulling a bunch of labs and I found like everybody’s… They looked like they had metabolic syndrome. So, their labs looked like the fat, 65-year-old guy too. Even if they were in great shape. Even if they look like they’re in great shape and so like again, I was just kind of at a loss. I started looking towards alternative medicine, because these guys didn’t have disease.

Not a single one of them had a disease that I could say oh this is what it is. Here’s the diagnosis, and here’s the medication you take, and here’s how we treat it. Like none of them.

Apart from the orthopedic stuff, right? Like we know everybody had that stuff. But this was ’09, so the SEALs had already been kickin’ ass for a while, and had a pretty good reputation. So, I could call like any expert in the world. Like I could you know… I’d read somebody’s book or hear them lecture, or watch their ted talk… And I’d just call them and say “hey I’m the doc for the west coast Navy SEALs. And I’d really like to come train with you. Or consult with you, or learn anything more about what you have to teach.”

And so, I started learning a lot about like iv nutrition and iv supplementation and adrenal fatigue. And you’re trying to treat all that, thinking that maybe this is just what they called “combat fatigue” in Vietnam. And “shell-shocked” in world war two.

And I’m thinking “well, maybe it’s just that. And long about the hundredth guy who came in my office and told me the exact same story as the ninety-nine guys before him… A kind of light bulb went off in my head and I’m like “oh, he takes Ambien every night.”

And I’d already been trying to treat people with some limited success, but nothing major. And I thought “well, I wonder how many of the other guys are?”

So, I start going through my records. And every single guy who had been in my office was taking sleep drugs. And I thought “well, Occam’s razor, right? Like that seems like something worth investigating.”

And like every other doctor in the world, unless you’re a sleep specialist, I didn’t know anything about sleep. Like I never had a single class on sleep in medical school. Not a single test question as far as I know. And if you look at the medical literature it’s like somebody can’t sleep, you teach them a little sleep hygiene. If that doesn’t work, you give them a z drug like Ambien or Lunesta. If that doesn’t work, you give them a benzodiazepine. If that doesn’t work you give them an antidepressant. If that doesn’t work, you’d give them anti-psychotics and sedatives.

And of course, all that’s disqualifying. So, our guys couldn’t take it. And so, I like “well, let me start learning about sleep.”

And as I started learning about sleep and learning well, Jesus Christ! Actually, everything these guys were complaining about could be explained by this one thing. It could all be explained by sleep.

I wasn’t convinced that it would be, but like it was the biggest uniter of everything.

Sleep Drugs


Mark. Let me ask what the Ambien, so they’re not getting sleep… Was it the lack of sleep, or was it the Ambien itself causing the problems? Or was it kind of a combination?

Kirk. Well, it’s really the same thing. So, when you take sleep drugs, you don’t actually sleep, you just go unconscious.

Mark. It just knocks you out.

Kirk. Right. So, the normal physiology, the changes in your brain and your body while you’re asleep that repairs your body, and repairs your brain, and get you ready for tomorrow… That stuff doesn’t happen when you use sleep drugs.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about over-the-counter stuff, or you’re using alcohol as a sleep drug, or using actual pharmacological sleep aids… It interferes with what’s actually going on when you sleep.

And when you do a sleep study on people you can usually tell like what like kind of what category of drug they’re using. Because we know it disrupts this part of sleep, and this drug tends to disrupt that part of sleep.

So, there’s something that’s been pretty well known for awhile is first responders like firefighters and law enforcement and paramedics and all that type of jazz… And even like ER doctors and those people who do shift work. And they do it consistently through their career. They die on average like 16 years earlier than the average American.

Mark. Really? Whoa.

Kirk. And the world health organization has classified shift work as a type 2a carcinogen. So, the same the same thing that cigarettes got classified as.

And then some research came out – and the pharmaceutical industry is going crazy about this right now – the research probably came out five or six years ago. But it’s really killing their sleep drug market.

What they found is that if you take sleep drugs chronically – and in medicine that only means six months – so if you’re using sleep drugs on a nightly or nearly nightly basis for six months – you have that same death rate as the shift workers. And so, my hypothesis on that is that it’s just the same thing, right? They’re not getting sleep. They’re taking sleep drugs chronically, because they can’t sleep. And then they’re taking a sleep drug and they feel like they’re sleeping, but they’re not sleeping.

And so, they have the exact same problems as people who don’t sleep enough. Or don’t sleep well, or don’t sleep aligned with their circadian rhythm.

So anyway, back to the story, I started learning this stuff and being a doctor, from what I had learned, wanting to fix things, I could see that all of their anabolic hormones were really low. And all of their inflammatory and catabolic pathways were really high. And their insulin sensitivity was really low.

And like there were nearly like metabolic syndrome. And some of them probably would have classified as metabolic syndrome.

And so, I wanted to fix their hormones…

Mark. Hang on. Explain what metabolic syndrome is.

Kirk. So metabolic syndrome is really sort of a combination of pre-diabetes, obesity and hypercholesterolemia. Having them you know a higher disease and death risk from pretty much all the major causes, because you’ve kind of checked all the bad boxes, right?

It’s like you’re not managing your nutrition well – like, your body is not handling nutrition well, because your insulin sensitivity sucks, you’re obese for a myriad of reasons and then you have high cholesterol, and you have high inflammatory markers. Which is a recipe for atherosclerosis, which leads to heart attack, stroke…

And one of the things that we do know about cancer risk is that almost all cancers proliferate better in high sugar environments. So, if you have bad insulin sensitivity, then your blood glucose is higher. So that’s an independent risk variable for that as well.

So, they’re essentially just 20 to 30 years older than what they actually were metabolically. And it didn’t reflect… I mean this was after you know kind of the Robb Wolf sensation with his podcast and the paleo diet. And guys getting really smart about this. And we’d built out that sports medicine facility, and we’d hired nutritionists and all this.

And so, it’s not like guys were just going out to Denny’s and eating burgers and drinking beer all day. I mean, a lot of the guys in my office were really, really dedicated to their nutrition. And were pretty smart about it.

So, I wanted to just go in there and fix their hormones. But you know the way the military works. Like that’s just taboo. It’s like hormones and sports or something. I don’t understand the logic exactly, but it’s there. And it’s just kind of a dogma, it’s a prejudice.

And so, I wasn’t allowed to do any of that. So, I had to figure out “well, what can I do?” and then, in the end, the more I learned about sleep and the more I learned about how sleep regulates all of your hormones, and regulates all of your physiological functions. And it’s probably not 100%, but it’s probably 98.6% of all the repair you do to your body happens while you’re asleep.

So, the whole idea of sleep is to get you ready for tomorrow. But if you don’t get enough sleep, you still have to do tomorrow. So, then what do you do? Like well they take pre-workout jack stuff, and over-drink coffee and energy drinks and like whatever it takes. A ton of guys would you know were getting diagnosed with add and being on Adderall and things like that.

Because if you sleep-deprived somebody for long enough, they look exactly like somebody with add. You can’t tell the difference.

And so, it was just like a really unhealthy recipe. And so, we had this pre-imposed retreat where we’d get all the families together, and kind of educate the people on, you know, here are the struggles are gonna be facing… And we’d try to give them some helpful life advice. And bring in a lot of lecturers and all that… And they would bring me in to lecture about sleep.

And then virtually, it was almost like a sleight of hand I was just trying to tell guys like, “hey man. Your testosterone will go up. Your inflammation will go down. Your pain will go down. Your growth hormone will go up. You’ll function better.”

And so, it was just a way to talk about hormones sort of under the guise of sleep. But then the more I read, the more I drank the Kool-Aid, and now I’m with 100% integrity I would say that sleep is the most important thing to your health, and longevity, and overall performance, and really everything.

I mean there’s a reason we use it as an interrogation technique, right? That’s a reason we use it to test in BUD/S and try to break people down. Because nothing breaks you faster than taking sleep away.

You can take food away for a long time. I mean, you look at prisoners you can take outdoors and exercise away from them. And they can go a really long time.

But you can’t go very long without sleep. You break really quickly.

So that’s how I ended up being the sleep guy. And when I said, “well I think the most important thing is to get everybody off of sleep drugs,” I couldn’t just like say quit taking your drugs and suck it up, you know? I had to do something, so I just did a ton of research about what are the most common nutritional deficiencies that are associated with poor sleep? And what happens when the sun goes down? Like what changes in your blood serum? What nutritional components are changing? And what’s sort of going on in your brain on a basic chemistry level?

I’m not a neuroscientist or anything like that… But I just came up with his big combination of like ten supplements. And the guys would have to go by them at three or four different stores. And some were capsules, and some were pills, and some were powders and some were liquids.

It was a pain in the ass. And it was like 120, 130 bucks a month for them to do it. And they just kept hounding me “make a product out of this. Make a product out of this.”

And so finally I did, thinking “I’ll just make this product. I’ll start up this supplement company. I’ll just make this product and then I’ll get right back into clinical work.”

And figured it would take a year or maybe two. And that was five years ago.

So that’s how I became a sleep guy.

Mark. (laughing) yeah, I’ll come back to your sleep “Kool-Aid.” you drank the Kool-Aid then you created the Kool-Aid.

Kirk. Exactly. That’s what I should have called it. “Sleep Kool-Aid.” it probably would’ve been a trademark infraction.

Actually, all the team guys just called it the “docs cocktail,” or “Doc Parsley’s cocktail.” so when I first launched it, I launched it as “Doc Parsley’s sleep cocktail,” which just proves that I know nothing about marketing. It was like the worst fucking name ever. (laughing) Like, every firewall in DoD, and DoJ, and academia all blocked it cause it had the word cocktail in it.

And half the people who heard about it, thought it was for alcoholic drinks. And I’m like “all right.” so I never said I was smart, dude.

Mark. (laughing) put this into my rum drink here, and see how it goes.

Kirk. (laughing) yeah.

Mark (laughing) like, “why is everyone asleep at this party?”

Kirk. This one doctor that I knew, just as a personal friend. And I told her when I came out with it. And I said, “here, you should try some.”

And then I saw her like a month later and I was like “oh so how you liking the sleep cocktail?”

She’s just like “it’s great! I mix it in my martini every night. Gives a nice little apple cinnamon flavor.”

And I was like, “oh, okay.”

Mark. (laughing) and I’m sleeping like a baby.

Kirk. Yeah. I probably should have said more when I gave it to you. So…

Mark. Yeah.

I know everyone who’s listening is not a sleep expert. What are the top three to five hygiene things that you can do? Or what were the other things you were telling the SEALs besides “drink this cocktail,” you know?

Kirk. Yeah. And drinking the cocktail is of course… I mean, I still don’t consider myself a supplement salesman. I’m a doctor and so like supplements are “supplemental” by definition, right? Everything you can fix without it.

But, you know, I’ve done private consulting with clients – mostly annual programs just to kind of get sort of a life overhaul – never really thought… I could probably send those guys to you, to like…

Mark. Continue the overhaul?

Kirk. Yeah. “let’s get you metabolically and physiologically fit enough to go do this.” and like set that goal.

Because most of them are entrepreneurs. And they’re kind of military and special forces hounds. They really like to compare their lingo… They use more military lingo than me… Let’s put it that way.

And anyway… I’m obviously best known for sleep, but when I work with these guys, I work across everything. So, I work with sleep, nutrition, exercise, and then some sort of mindfulness. And you know something as a stress mitigator.

And if they’re really geeky and they want to do your like wearable stuff and collect a bunch of data – we can do some other things like that – but it’s really lifestyle modification first. And then a lot of nutrition, a lot of sleep at the beginning. And then we’ll t get into supplements. And then we’ll get into hormones if we need to. And then last resort – sort of at the end of the program – if there’s something that we just haven’t been able to fix and they still need a pharmaceutical – then like that’s the last quarter. We’d add that.

But I can tell you that the toughest thing, across everything in our work on guys with – is getting them to believe that they should sleep 8 hours a night.

And once people believe that, they don’t need much coaching. It’s really like that’s the crux. If people will actually value sleep. If they’ll do enough reading, or listening, or understanding to realize that sleep is the most critical component of their health. And then they take it serious for a week.

It sells itself after that.

Mark. There’s kind of this cultural thing, and we saw it in the SEALs, it’s kind of like macho to think “I only need six hours of sleep a night.” it’s like “bullshit.” you’re barely surviving on six hours of sleep a night.

Kirk. Yeah, and the doctors were the same way. When I was in medical school, you know, you pull call every third night. You’re working for essentially like 36 hours straight.

And obviously the teams is like, you slept when you could. I mean you might get to sleep 10 or 12 hours one night, if you want. But you might only get a couple hours for three, four or five nights in a row. And that’s under bushes and on rocks and stuff.

But once you convince people that it is truly valuable, then they can get out their computer and go into google, man. And they’re gonna be fine. They’ll figure it out.

But I always break sleep hygiene down into… It’s really simple… There’s a million little gimmicks, there’s a million little products out there… There’s a lot of things that I like. There’s a lot of things that are useful, and if they work for you, use them.

But it’s really this simple – when the sun goes down… We evolved on this planet to be asleep when the sun was down and awake when the sun is up. And there’s a ton of physiological reasons for that. Well… There’s a ton of physiological things that are happening that we now attribute reasons to, but we couldn’t have done it the other way. We couldn’t have reversed that to “this is the cause of it.”

And so, you know really when… And this is this really recent… So, a hundred and fifty years ago, rural electrification wasn’t a deal, right? And most people didn’t live in industrialized environments, and people still used the sun as their cue for when to go to sleep and when to be awake.

And if you look at hunter-gatherers that still live today, they’ve never been exposed to electricity, they do the exact same thing. And what happens is once that blue light goes out of your eyes, a bunch of neurochemical changes happen in your brain over the course of about three hours. And then you feel like going to sleep.

And those neurochemical changes – there’s a whole chain of them – and one of the end products is something most people have heard of as melatonin, which is a hormone secreted in your brain. And what melatonin – one of the main functions of melatonin is that it decreases your brain sensitivity to stress hormones. And then it also causes the release of another neuropeptide called GABA.

And what GABA does is it slows down your brain, essentially. It decreases your interaction with your environment. And in fact, the medical definition of sleep is really simple – there’s a barrier between you and your environment and you can be awakened. And I would add to that that you have to have a predictable neurological brain wave patterns.

And I would say that, because of the use of sleep aids. Because you could fit those other two categories, but not really be getting sleep per se. So, the brainwave pattern, I think, is an adjunct.

So, if you decrease the amount of light going into your eyes, then the neurochemical pathways to produce melatonin will happen. As long as you’re not deficient, and so deficient in any of the substrates that you can’t make enough melatonin.

That’ll just happen. It’ll happen all by itself. You don’t need to do any magic. It’s all about light.

And of course, we can do all sorts of stuff with artificial light, that makes that problematic.

But the other thing is the GABA pathway. The GABA pathway – if you think of the pictures you see of the human brain, that’s what we call the neocortex. And that’s the wrinkly, the big yellowish gray, kind of wrinkly bit. That’s where our sensory is. That’s where we’re like smelling, and feeling, and tasting. And all of our motor function.

So how we’re interacting with the environment is wrapped up in that. And when we slow that down, then you quit interacting with your environment as much.

So, your brain isn’t as alert because the stress hormones are what make your brain alert. And then you’re not interacting with your environment as much. And then you fall asleep.

And another sort of normal cue is that your body temperature goes down because the sun goes down. So, you drop about one-degree body temperature.

And that’s really all there is to sleep. So, sleep hygiene is nothing more than trying to recreate that. And, like I said, there’s a million ways to do that. I mean, there’s light bulbs you can put in your house that don’t have blue light in them, or that change to no blue light. So, there’s things you can put on your computers, and your phones now. There are glasses you can wear. You could turn off the electricity in your house and use candles if you wanted to.

Whatever, but like the light problem is this problem. The GABA pathway is all about stimulation. So, you can overcome that GABA pathway – and you’ve probably experienced this, like you’ve had days where you’re really tired and you just want to go home to sleep. And then a couple buddies talk you into going and having a beer.

And you like have a couple of beers. Now you had a depressant, which should make you more sleepy, but you’re wide awake. And that you’re wide awake, because you’ve overridden your brain slowing down. And you’re interacting with your environment a lot, because it’s loud and you’re talking to people, and you’re engaged in what they’re saying. And you might be checking out people you find attractive, or watching things on the television. And so, you can overcome the GABA pathway.

So, you can’t just block all the light in your eyes and sit at your computer and crank and work on you know stressful work projects. Or go out and do wind sprints and lift weights and all this other stuff and then expect to be able to just pop into bed, because you handled that light bit.

So, you gotta handle that. It’s just like, decrease the stimulation and decrease the light. And if you’ve ever had kids, or if you’ve ever been a kid, you might remember that protracted like hour and a half it takes to get a kid ready for sleep. And then we just abandon that, to our peril… As adults, we think it’s not that important, we don’t need to do that.

But we do.

So, you have to start winding your brain down. You have to get the light out of your eyes. And then preferably get your body temperature down a little bit, with maybe a cold shower or lowering your ac or kind of however you do that.

And, like I said, tons of different gadgets to help you do that stuff. But that’s really all there is to sleep hygiene.

Mark. That’s interesting. Yeah, I have the blue-light blocker screen protector on my phone. A pair of those yellow gloves. And they seem to help me quite a bit.

The role of nutrition. So that’s all about stimulation then. So, alcohol, anything, coffee too late in the afternoon, eating sugary food – that’s all going to stimulate you and override the GABA…?

Kirk. So, one of the things that makes you feel like going to sleep – what we call the sleep pressure – so everybody is familiar with it. You’ve had those periods where you just can’t get in your bed fast enough. And you’re gonna fall asleep before your head even is fully rested on your pillow. Like that’s maximum sleep pressure. Like your brain is just shutting down and saying you’re going to sleep whether you want to or not.

But we have that to some degree every day. And one of the reasons we have that is the molecule that we use to provide energy to all of our cells – ATP is what it’s called – and you just consider it like the electricity of every cell in your body.

We’re obviously just a combination of cells, right? And we take in nutrients and we excrete waste, right?

Well, every cell in your body does that. And so one of kind of the waste products is when you break down ATP – it’s a molecule called adenosine and has some phosphate molecules attached to it – and if it has three, it’s ATP and if it has two, it’s ADP and one it’s amp and then it just becomes adenosine.

And adenosine builds up in your brain and actually makes you feel sleepy. It’s essentially a waste product, and it binds to receptors in your brain and lets your brain know that “hey, there’s a lot of adenosine around. We’ve been doing a lot of work. We’ve been producing a lot of energy and burning a lot of fuel sources. Like we need to rest and recuperate and restore.”

And caffeine blocks those receptors. It competes with adenosine. So, you still have all that waste product in your brain, but you can block it off, so it decreases your sleep pressure if you drink it too late.

And then another thing that caffeine tends to do is elevate stress hormone. So, it elevates your adrenal functions, kind of ramps you up. And so, it is harder to sleep, if you drink caffeine too late in the afternoon. I usually tell people to stop at 10:00 which means they’ll stop by noon and that for most people is okay.

But there’s huge genetic variability as to how quickly people process caffeine. So, the half life can be anywhere from like 2 hours to 36 hours. So, people who really can’t tolerate caffeine, that’s why… They don’t have the enzymatic capacity in their liver to break down caffeine very well. So, a little bit of caffeine goes a long way in them.

And then other people… Like you’ve seen the people that can have like a cup of coffee every hour for the first six hours of the day, and they still sleep just fine.

Mark. The Navy chief.

Kirk. Yeah. The Navy chief coffee guy, right?

Mark. Yeah, interesting.

Kirk. And then the nutrition component is just widely variable. It really matters how metabolically fit you are. And how physiologically fit you are. If you’re getting close to kind of metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes or diabetes, those fluctuations in blood glucose and the inflammatory products associated with all that, that will interfere with your sleep.

And the overall level of blood glucose doesn’t matter, but how quickly it drops matters. And so, when you have difficulties regulating your blood glucose, that tends to wake you up during the night multiple times. And you get the lower quality of sleep.

But if you’re metabolically sound, and you’re pretty fit, and you eat good food… And like you’re overall healthy… It’s just something you have to tinker around with. It’s very individualistic. Some people do better if they have a little bit carbs… A slow absorbing carb. If they had that with dinner, they sleep better and some people like can’t have any carbs later in the day. And it’s just that’s pretty individualistic.

Mark. Has there been any research linking biome issues with sleep?

Kirk. Oh yeah. On both sides. So, one of my arguments for saying sleep is the most important part of your health, is we know that the average person needs about eight hours of sleep a night. And if you give the average person about six hours of sleep a night – so only two hours less than they need – which is, by the way – the American average currently 6.2 hours – a single night of missing two hours of sleep will drop your overall testosterone by thirty percent. It will drop your overall growth hormone by thirty percent. It will increase your hunger by roughly thirty percent. It will drop your insulin sensitivity roughly thirty percent. It will decrease your executive functioning by roughly thirty percent…

So, it’s completely across the board on everything. And it actually changes the flora of your gut significantly. By about thirty percent. With a single night of short-sleep.

And then if you add all of that stuff together, and you keep sleeping six hours per night, it gets worse and worse and worse forever. Like people think that they get adjusted to it, and like “I feel normal now.”

Well that’s no different than getting drunk, right? You get drunk and like at a certain point of drunkenness you’re just like “I’m fine,” you know? Like, “I’m fine. Like, this alcohol is not really having any effect on me anymore.”

No, you’re really drunk. And people’s performance just decrease, decrease, decrease over the course of their life, and they don’t recognize it. Because you lose that awareness. You lose the self-awareness that your performance is decreasing, right?

Just like if you don’t look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t get on the scale, and you just judge like what your body looks like by whether or not your clothes fit. That’s putting your head in the sand. And you have to have some sort of metric, and everybody does worse on less sleep. Every single person on the planet, so…

catching up on sleep


Mark. Yeah. Wow. I was just up for like 50 hours straight over the weekend with Kokoro camp. And I’m definitely feeling it yesterday and today. And I actually was taking a nap before this podcast. That’s why maybe I sound a little groggy. But trying to catch up.

Kirk. More power to ya.

Mark. You gotta catch up…

Kirk. Yeah, you gotta catch up as quickly as you possibly can.

Mark. And how quickly can you come back into balance, let’s say if you have a long… Let’s say SEAL on deployment, or an executive is you know in a really crunch period, and he goes for a month sleeping five hours a night. How quickly can you recover from that?

Kirk. It depends on how well you can prioritize sleep. So, the sleep debt’s real, and it’s well established, and I’ll tell you how we’ve sort of diagnosed and seen it in the past.

But the one thing we don’t know is exactly how much sleep debt do you build up? And how long do you carry that, right?

So, let’s say you crush yourself in college. And then you get a reasonable job, where you can get reasonable sleep. And you keep doing that for ten years – like have you paid off your sleep debt? That’s the part we don’t know.

But what we do know is that when you take people… Basically, if you take a random sample of people from any culture anywhere on the planet… Any westernized people I should say – and you put them in a cold, dark room with no stimulus – like they’ve got a bed, and a toilet – no lights and it’s cold – and you lock them in there for 14 hours a day. And you let them out for 10 hours a day. And you do that until they’re sleeping eight hours a night consistently without any idea of what time it is. So, there’s no external cues for them to know how long they’ve been asleep, or what time it is.

The average person will sleep about twelve and a half hours the first night. And then it takes about three to four weeks of sleeping as long as they possibly can – just as long as they want to – it takes about three to four weeks for them to get down to the seven and a half hours, plus or minus half an hour – which is where that number comes from.

And then no matter how long you run it out after that – everybody will sleep seven and a half hours, plus or minus half an hour pretty much ad nauseam. Unless you do like some very super active hard work whatever… Obviously gonna need some more sleep to recover.

But the fascinating thing about that, if you think about it – and this was originally done in world war 2, and it was called bunker trials. And they took college students during their summer break. And did this.

And it’s been done hundreds of times since, and it always yields the same results. And the remarkable thing about that is to think that if they’re sleeping seven and a half hours and they’re in a cool dark room with no electricity – that’s obviously way before cellphones or anything like that – so there’s nothing for them to do except lay in bed until the door opens and they get to go out for ten hours.

That means they’re laying awake for six and a half hours in a cool dark room. How many people can do that? If you can’t do that, you have a sleep debt most likely. So, if you can’t just say “well, I’m gonna sleep as long as it takes.” how long does it take to pay back your sleep debt. That’s highly variable, right?

Like, well, if you can get maybe… Say if your physiological norm would be seven and a half hours, you’d be like you the exact average person. If you slept eight and a half hours for six months or nine months or a year. Like, we don’t really know that. We don’t have that data.

But that’s probably realistic, that it would probably take you somewhere around six to nine months of like focusing on your sleep to where you were just going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every day without an alarm clock. And that’s how you would know that you have no sleep debt.

Mark. You know, you should like do that as an executive retreat.

Kirk. (laughing) yeah

Mark. (laughing) sleep retreat with Doc Parsley. Here, come into this bunker and just shut the door. That’d be the easiest one to run ever.

Kirk. Yeah. You don’t have to deal with them for 14 hours. Let them out for 10 hours… I’ll let you go beat them up on the beach or whatever. Get them nice and tired.

Mark. Yeah, give them to me for ten…

Kirk. Yeah, we’ll get a good nutritionist in there to give them some good food. And then throw them back… We got a deal. We got a plan going here.

Mark. I think so. That’s awesome

One more thing, cause you know a lot of parents out there are dealing with this too, because of all the stimulation these kids are on. And I had dealt with this with my son Devon. You know, sometimes he’s up to two o’clock and night cruising YouTube. And of course, he doesn’t listen to me, because he’s 19, right?

What’s the issue with kids? They gotta be chronically sleep deprived…

Kirk. Yeah, it’s super unfortunate. There’s this organization called “start school later,” that it’s a not-for-profit, and they’ve been lobbying for national regulation on school start times for probably at least 10 years. I mean, they’re just up against an ignorant society that isn’t willing to do what needs to be done.

But I mean it’s actually tremendously sad. I mean, it’s devastating what we’re doing to our kids. We know during adolescence that your circadian rhythm… What we call shifts forward… So, it makes you want to go to sleep about two to three hours later…

And there’s nothing an adolescent can do about that. I mean, it’s hormonal there’s nothing they can do to get rid of that.

So, when we start school at 7 o’clock for a kid who is you know shifted out 3 hours that would be the same as you and I starting work everyday at 3:00 a.m. And expecting to have the same performance. Like, you and I are gonna go to school at 3:00 a.m. Like we’re going to we’re gonna start taking college courses at 3:00 a.m. Like how much are we going to learn? The first three or four hours is going to be wasted, because it’s gonna take that long for our brains to wake up and actually learn something.

And this is well documented. I mean, there’s no question about it.

So just the school system itself is against the kids. But then all this recreational screen time, which is like cell phones, and gaming, and computers, and television… Obviously there’s a light issue and it’s pretty easy to control around that with all the programs around that now.

But the problem is it’s just really, really, really unpopular to try to limit your kid’s screen time. And the statistic…

Mark. Unpopular with the kids, you mean…

Kirk. Yeah, yeah. And the statistics are astounding. Like, I’ve seen this in several different studies… I’ve seen it come up time and time again.

The average teenager – adolescent up to the college age – spends more time on recreational media than they do sleeping. And for young men this is even more important. It’s important for both. It’s important for young women and young men.

But the prefrontal cortex – the front of our brain that gives us our executive functioning, that makes us the smartest animal on this planet, that gives us the ability to plan and predict – like, “if I do this, the likely consequence would be good or bad.” like, if I sleep with my boss’s wife, that’s probably a bad idea. I don’t actually need to do that to know it’s a bad idea.

We have a prefrontal cortex – that’s a simulator – it’ll allow me to do that. But sleep deprive me enough, and I might think that’s not such a bad idea. But that area of the brain develops later in boys than it does in girls. And that’s what a lot of the social immaturity that boys get judged with is about.

And there’s advantages to that for certain things – because it allows you to take more risk, and obviously we know that historically men did riskier things. Like hunted and did battle with other tribes. And all of that type of stuff. So evolutionarily it makes sense that they would develop later. And you think about the shit we did when we were 18 in the military.

I would be smart enough to be really scared of that now. My brain wasn’t developed enough to realize the risk I was taking at that stage in my life, right?

So, we are actually interfering with the development of the brains of our children. Their executive functioning, their ability to do, I mean…

And the executive functioning is exactly what it sounds like it. It’s what would an executive do? Like, its high-level decisions, it’s problem-solving, it’s math, it’s calculation, it’s predicting the future based on past events. And all of that type of stuff.

And we’re impairing our kid’s ability to do that, and we’re making college applications exponentially more competitive. And graduate school nearly mandatory at this stage.

And I mean, it’s really tragic. We are doing exactly the opposite of what we should be doing with our kids. Just like most Americans do exactly the opposite of what they should do with their kid’s nutrition. And with their kid’s activities.

Kids need to go out and play. They need to fall down. They need to trip. They need to try to climb things and fall off. They need to break a few bones here and there. They need to get dirty. I mean, it’s part of the species and we’re handicapping them.

Mark. Right. Back to the whole reason that our military men and women are not up to par.

Kirk. Yeah. I mean, I heard some statistic recently – I don’t know where it came from, could have been made up – but something like 30 or 40 percent of military aged men – so I think it’s like 18 to 25 or something – like 30 to 40 percent of American boys wouldn’t even qualify for the military. Like they’re physiologically unfit.

I mean that’s an astounding statistic. Because you think about a hundred years ago it was probably about what three percent? Or five percent or something?

Mark. Yeah, everyone was qualified.

Kirk. Yeah.

Mark. Wow. Well we’ve been chatting for a long time, so we probably should wrap this up. You’ve got a new version of your cocktail – what you call sleep remedy?

Kirk. Yeah.

Mark. And what’s new about it?

Kirk. Well, I mean it’s actually only kind of new. It’s really closer to what I was giving this SEALs than what I produced.

Mark. So now people can actually sleep like a Navy SEAL?

Kirk. (laughing) exactly.

Mark. (laughing) marketing. “sleep like a Navy SEAL.”

Kirk. Yeah, so when I originally started producing it – I funded this all with just like my money, and like a few of my friends chipped in some money and then we just said “yeah, we’ll see if this works.”

And so, it was prohibitively expensive for me to put everything in there that I was giving the SEALs. But I came as close as I possibly could. And then there was this other form of GABA that I really didn’t know much about. Some pharmacists talked to me about that and I said, “okay, well we can try that form of GABA.” and so we put that in there instead of the regular GABA, like I was giving the SEALs.

But economy of scale and business and so we sell enough and we produce enough now to where I can actually produce the product that I want. And I can use higher quality ingredients. You know, magnesium that gets into the brain better – that crosses the blood-brain barrier better.

I was also recommending the guys take something called phosphatidylserine. Which is this supplement that when you take it, it decreases the amount of stress hormones that your body produces. And it works during exercise, as well. Like it’ll decrease your stress hormones if you’re exercising intensely… So, it helps with that as well.

But a lot of reasons people can’t sleep well, is because they have too many stress hormones.

So, a few guys were buying that, but that was crazy expensive. I think there’s like $100 for 30 pills when I was first doing that. But the price of that’s come down. So, I got that in the product.

I adjusted the dosages of several things to be more aligned with what they were back then. And then I added one new ingredient – and it’s just because I didn’t really have the awareness of it back then but it’s an amino acid called l-theanine. And it essentially works synergistically with the GABA, and it increases your brain’s response to the GABA.

And it’s a naturally occurring amino acid. It’s just something we’re kind of concentrating in there.

So, 100% of the feedback so far has been that the product works much better. And 100% of the feedback is that it tastes much better too. Some of the ingredients were pretty hard to mask before, so like the higher quality the ingredients you use, the less flavoring you need.

Mark. I have a question. I use the product myself. I really enjoy it. And so that’s why I endorse it and we promote it here.

But are you supposed to use it every night? Or just kind of once in a while? Or just when you’re feeling extra tired?

Kirk. Its totally up to the individual. And it depends on why you’re taking it. So, you can essentially use it like you would a daily multivitamin, right? And it’s just like “well, you know, I’m more likely to get better sleep if I use this every night.”

And there’s nothing in there that builds up over time, or causes tolerance, or that’s gonna like you know cause any sort of vitamin excess in you, or nutrient excess…

There’s nothing in there that’ll backfire, so it’s safe to take every single day.

Mark. Okay.

Kirk. Some people just use it like an insurance policy. Like a multivitamin. And you can use it that way.

There’s also though the people who know that they aren’t going to get good sleep. So, people that are you know first responders, or military, or all that kind of jazz… Transcontinental pilots. And they just know they’re gonna have a crappy sleep schedule. They do shift work, whatever.

I recommend that all of those people take it all the time. You just take it every night, because of those stats I was talking about. Like you’re gonna die 16 years earlier. And if this helps you get like one extra hour of sleep, or 30% higher quality of sleep, it’s probably getting have some pretty amazing benefits in the long haul for you.

And then a lot of my business clients just use it for travel. For jet lag and to get themselves to be able to sleep on the plane, or to get themselves to be able to go to sleep in a different time zone when they’re not really tired. And it works great for that as well.

I mean, I take it every night and I’ve never had any problem sleeping, other than I didn’t value it. So, once I started valuing sleep… Like, I’ve always been able to sleep anywhere.

And rob was over at my house in San Diego… Actually, it was still sleep cocktail at that point… And so, we were doing a lecture together and so he’s staying at my house. And he’s like “hey, are you gonna make a sleep cocktail?”

And I’m like, “ironically, I’m out of it.” I own the company, but I always run out of it just cause I always forget to reorder for myself.

And he’s like, “I have an extra one.

And I’m like “aah, that’s cool. I haven’t been using it for like a month.”

And then he’s like “are you sure?” and he’s waving it like a little drug salesman.

I’m like “all right. I’ll take it.”

And then I woke up the next morning, and I’m like “what the hell was I thinking?” yes of course I need to take this… I mean, I just feel way better on it. And if that’s your experience then I say it’s safe enough and it’s cheap enough… I would do it and I just do it every night.

Mark. Yeah. Any difference between the pill format and the one you mix with water?

Kirk. The primary reason for the pill format is for the lunatic fringe nutritional people who just like they don’t want any kind of flavoring or they don’t want any type of xylitol. Or they have an objection to an ingredient.

I like the tea better. And the reason I made it tea… The primary reasons are twofold. So, I want people to engage in some sort of nighttime ritual. And if you have to like go put a kettle on and boil some water to make this tea, then you’re like you’re putting some forethought into getting ready for bed, right? There’s something there. Other than just sitting in your bed and popping capsules.

And it absorbs faster because it’s liquid. You don’t have to break down the capsules and then hydrate all the powder and all that stuff in your gut. So the onset is faster.

We had to play around with a few of the ingredients… Make some marginal changes in there, just to make it you know be able to fit in three pills. Because you can’t really get people to take six pills a night. We had to make a little exception.

And this newest version has the capsules have a magnesium called magnesium threonate, which is also called mag-teen, which… It’s the form of magnesium that gets across the blood-brain barrier the best. It was developed at Stanford. It’s been shown to like decrease age associated neurological decline, and all sorts of like great benefits.

But that’s at twice the dosage of what we’re putting in there. And so that form of magnesium is different between the two products.

I will eventually switch the tea to have the mag-teen in it as well, but right now it’s just too expensive to do it that way.

But apart from that, there may be like a 10% difference in efficacy. And I would take the capsules an hour before bed, and I would take the tea like thirty minutes before bed. So that’s about it.

Mark. Yeah, awesome. Awesome.

Well this has been fascinating, and thanks for the work you do. By the way, I forgot to mention, but for those who want to learn more you’ve got a book out called “Sleep to Win.”

Kirk. Yes.

Mark. We’re gonna change the title to “Sleep like a Navy SEAL.”

Kirk. Well actually, the subtitle is “how Navy SEALs and other top performers stay on top,” or something like that. I don’t know.

Mark. Yeah. Had to get that in.

Kirk. Yeah, can’t have a SEAL book without “SEAL” in the title. Of course.

Mark. All right, man. I look forward to seeing you. Good luck down in the new country of Texas.

Kirk. Yeah. Home, sweet home.

Mark. I hope you let me in when California and Texas go to war.

Kirk. Yeah, we’ll sneak you in. You might have to go through the Panama Canal and like come up through the gulf. The brotherhood’s strong here.

Mark. Hooyah. Thanks for that.

All right. We’ll talk to you soon.

All right folks, that was Doc Parsley. You can check out his website at

And go order some sleep remedy. If you haven’t tried it, trust me on this, stuff works. And it’s critical – as you’ve heard from this podcast – to get that seven and a half, eight hours of sleep every night. And if you’re in deficit start making it up, by sleeping in on the weekend and taking naps like I did.

You can get 10% off if you use the code Unbeatable Mind. Should be easy to remember. name of this podcast.

So, go to Check out his book “Sleep Like a Navy SEAL.” I mean “Sleep to Win,” and generally just get on board with the sleep bandwagon. It’s really important and pass the word. And on that note let’s check out of here. Stay safe, train hard, and sleep well.


Divine out.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Ron Gellis says:

    Great discussion. I am 71 and have had a shortened sleep cycle since my 20’s 4-6 hours max. I will get & try the cocktail but would also like to try for the patients at the substance abuse rehab I am the clinical director of.

  • My whole life has changed because of Mark Divine. I’m thankful.

  • Hello, Thanks for putting this research together. I have a Traumatic Brain Injury from a near fatal motorcycle accident on 10/11/10, where I broke my neck, at C-1, C-2, and multiple other bones, and my sleep hygiene has been horrible ever since. I’m lucky I can walk. I’m blessed to have received so much good physical therapy, occupational therapy, cranial sacro massage therapy. Thank goodness for modern medical care and technology! I have a Cervical vertebral fusion at C-1, C-2 I’ve also had to have visited the E.R. fairly recently for wrist drop and left hand weakness to discover I was experiencing Radial nerve palsy on my left side and this had happened to my right side a month earlier. So ever since my accident I’ll have multiple periods of not sleeping for 4-7 days. I’m looking forward to learning more. I know how essential sleep is, and I regularly pray I don’t do something stupid and hurt myself or fall. I’m currently unemployed but am eager to purchase the supplements and books when I have some more money. Thank you God Bless. giancarlo petri

  • […] joined an episode of The Unbeatable Mind Podcast, with Mark Devine, retired Navy SEAL Commander. Together, the two talk all things sleep and […]

  • […] joined an episode of The Unbeatable Mind Podcast, with Mark Divine, retired Navy SEAL Commander. Together, the two talk all things sleep and […]

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