Brain Health,
Sci + Society,

#081: Optimizing Your Sleep

June 19, 2015

Remember that Robert Frost poem about “dark and lovely woods, with miles to go and promises to keep before one sleeps?”

Herein lies the problem.  With social evolution and technological advancements, we have pushed sleep towards the bottom of our priority list.  Ex-Navy SEAL Dr. Kirk Parsley joins Jesse this week for a candid discourse on sleep.  From the pros and cons of biphasic sleep, to the importance of naps, to Doc Parsley’s personal experiences with sleep-deprived SEALs…  This is an episode worth staying awake for.

Shifting gears from Robert Frost to Robert Kelly…  Remember the song “I Believe I Can Fly”? Well, it turns out that believing you can get smarter, can actually make you smarter.  In This Week In Neuroscience, Jesse gives us a lowdown on the concept of malleable intelligence – and why it’s something everyone should know about.

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Show Notes
  • 00:00:35

    Enhacing your brain with sleep.

  • 00:01:32

    This Week In Neuroscience: Malleable intelligence - believe it!

  • 00:04:08

    Five star reviews on iTunes.

  • 00:05:38

    Jesse introduces Dr. Kirk Parsley.

  • 00:06:45

    Doc Parsley's background in sleep study.

  • 00:07:18

    Navy SEALs and the Tactical Athlete Program.

  • 00:11:11

    Telling people to sleep more is a very unpopular message.

  • 00:12:09

    Biphasic sleep.

  • 00:14:09

    Optimizing sleep - the ideal vs the reality.

  • 00:15:00

    The science behind naps and the Nap Wheel.

  • 00:18:30

    Being sleep deprived and tired akin to being drunk.

  • 00:19:43

    Things that interfere with sleep.

  • 00:20:48

    The connection between sleep and nutrition.

  • 00:23:13

    Jesse and Doc Parsley discuss their experiences with Ketogenic diet.

  • 00:24:55

    Sleep Debt - can we ever catch up?

  • 00:26:41

    Sleep hygiene.

  • 00:30:26

    Optimize hygiene or optimize amount - what is the best way to optimize sleep?

  • 00:31:21

    Doc Parsley's sleep supplements.

  • 00:34:11

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Loud noises can increase the risk of obesity.


  1. Nootropos says:

    To calculate sleep you can Google: sleep calculator
    and get a list of websites. The first one sleepytime is good. There are also apps.
    In a future podcast you could talk about mobile applications/alarm clocks/light to track/improve sleep.

    1. Kirk Parsley says:

      I’d be happy to come back on and talk about various ways of sleep tracking–as well as the pros and cons of doing so.

      1. Nootropos says:

        I am looking forward to it! Thanks Dr.

  2. Nootropos says:

    The supplement for sleep advertised contains phGABA. What is that? There is no info on the website.
    Also, vitamin D3 at night?

    1. Kirk Parsley says:

      To answer the questions of ingredients, “ph” stands for phenyl. It is a non-polar ring that allows the GABA to cross the blood-brain-barrier.

      Yes. Vitamin D3 at night! I’ve heard the stories too, but I have never seen any science to back up the concept that taking vitamin D3 can produce insomnia. Nor have I seen any physiologic postulate as to a mechanism for that to occur. Happy to learn from anyone with better information than mine, but vitamin D3 is not a vitamin, it is a hormone, and it is sequestered in fat. The timing of taking a fat soluble compounds is profoundly unlikely to have immediate or even temporal effects. The SEALs have been doing this since 2009, and NONE have had insomnia from vitamin D3 administration.

      1. Nootropos says:

        Thanks Dr. for the detailed reply.
        So, phGABA is Phenibut right? I know you use small doses but isn’t it habit forming? i read some forums where people comment on Phenibut’s potential for problems. I know some people can abuse anything and then blame it on the substance, but I would like more info I don’t remember Phenibut being described in this website. Thanks.

  3. Joe says:

    Has anyone tried the Doc’s Sleep Remedy or know of a sleep aid to help with getting to sleep faster?

  4. ben says:

    Perhaps I have bad circulation, but 67F is a bit chilly for me. I’m a problem sleeper, but have found better results when the electric blanket is turned on hot.. I also seem to dream a lot more, or at least more vivid so that I remember them! I’d like to upgrade to a bedjet / chilipad at some point.

    I wonder if Dr. Parsley has any thoughts on those massage/vibrating beds (Reverie, Leggett Platt, etc). I know some people that swear by them, saying they fall asleep instantly, but not sure if it’s ever been studied properly. While I can fall asleep fine, my problem is that I wake up too early and can’t fall asleep again. Perhaps the vibrating bed can calm the adrenaline and allow me to sleep more than 4 hours!

    Considering an appropriate dosage of melatonin is in the .3-.6ug, I’ve tried mega-dosing on vitamin-d3 and melatonin (15mg), but no luck… apparently, it’s doesn’t last after a couple hours, which is when I need it to kick in.

    Finally, not exactly sleep related, but perhaps related to my insomnia, is that I have a bad back ( herniated L5-S1), which makes lying down often very uncomfortable. Not sure how woo-woo it is, but any thoughts on magnetic mattress pads?

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