Navy SEAL Dr. Kirk Parsley on Sleep vs. Performance, Heart Rate Variability, & Supplementation

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“You can test people. When their heart rate variability is good, they're better at everything.”

Greetings, Superfriends. This week, I’m excited to bring you another bona-fide superhuman. Get this – my guest Dr. Kirk Parsley is not only a former Navy Seal and all-around athlete (having seriously competed in football, track and field, power lifting, boxing, multiple martial arts, volleyball, and crew). He’s also a doctor. Through his extensive work with the elite Navy SEALs and extensive personal experimentation, he has become an expert in all things fitness and health, but most specifically, sleep.

Now, you may or may not realize it, but sleep is the foundation for everything we do. Proper, healthy sleep is one of the most basic things that can either hold you back or propel you forward towards your goals – whether they’re fitness related, intellectual, professional, or even emotional goals. It’s for this reason that I’m so excited to welcome this guest. He’s working on a book with the great Robb Wolf all around optimal sleep. He’s designed Sleep Cocktails, a product designed to help people get into restful, restorative sleep more easily. Basically, there are very, very few people on the planet who know less about the correlations between sleep and performance than this guy.

A little bit of fair warning, it does take us 10-15 minutes to really dive deeper and find our flow. Also, make sure you listen through to the end, because we really hit our stride at about 50 minutes and Dr. Parsley starts throwing out incredible take-homes left and right, as well as some fascination biological and physiological facts. You’re sure to learn a lot from this episode, and given some of the mind-blowing facts Doc Parsley describes relating to sleep and performance… it might even change your life.

So, before I actually PUT you to sleep with this intro, let’s get the ball rolling, with Dr. Kirk Parsley.

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • Who are Dr. Kirk Parsley's peers in the field?
  • Dr. Parsley's career path, and how he became one of THE preeminent experts on sleep
  • Some background on Dr. Parsley's research with the SEALs and their unusual health issues
  • The best strategy for optimizing sleep and cognitive performance
  • How proper napping can accelerate learning dramatically
  • Different types of stimulants, when to use them, and how they work
  • Polyphasic sleep: is it a myth?
  • Even if you're not tired, how can you assess if you are getting inadequate sleep
  • The functions of the sympathetic vs. parasympathetic nervous systems
  • Understanding heart rate variability training, and why it's really valuable
  • Meditation and it's affects on sleep
  • How much sleep do different types of people actually need?
  • What are the 3 changes you should go home and make TODAY to sleep better?
  • When should you work out, according to the ultradian rhythm?
  • What should you be doing before bed every night?
  • A bit about nutrition and some dangerous micro-nutritional deficiencies

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Favorite Quotes from Dr. Kirk Parsley:

“I was then the least qualified sports medicine guy around – which, in truly military fashion, the obvious solution was to put me in charge of everyone.”
“Drugging yourself to sleep doesn't work. You only drug yourself unconscious.”
“Sleep deprivation and famine or fight or flight all look very similar metabolically. And pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome is probably really tied to refined carbohydrates and sleep deprivation. And if we got rid of those two things, we would probably see Type 2 diabetes become almost non-existent.”
“The ultradian rhythm peaks somewhere between 3:30 to 5:30PM, and that's where 85% of world records are set.”



  1. Luiz
    at — Reply

    Thanks, I learned a lot of interesting things in past episodes.

  2. Shivaditya Purohit
    at — Reply

    loved th heart and the depth of the conversation. The way that Dr. Metivier shared from his enormous experience and insights was just amazing. Thank you Jonathan for doing this podcast!! 🙂

  3. Rob
    at — Reply

    Great interview with Dr. Greg Wells! He mentioned a doctor from Colorado around the 42:30 point of the podcast, discussing turmeric and black pepper. I couldn’t make out the doctor’s name. Can you provide me with his full name and maybe his website or contact info. Interested in his products.



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