I wanted to shoot this TED talk by my good friend, Dr. Kirk Parsley your way. Doc Parsley (if you have missed the outstanding podcasts we’ve done with him here: 1, 2, and 3) is a former Navy SEAL, went to med school, and then was the Doc for the West Coast Teams for about 8 years. He has a fascinating perspective on a variety of topics, but in particular, sleep. He has chosen two professions which place one in sleep debt perhaps more than just about any other professions I can think of. Kirk has three kids too, so he checks the “bad sleep due to kids” box as well.
Even though I’m a “food” guy, I have talked and written at length about the sleep and photoperiod part of this Evolutionary Medicine story since my first exposure to the dietary side of things. Why? Because it is critical. Sleep and photoperiod considerations are MORE important than food or exercise. If the electricity went “out” but we still had access to shitty food, we’d be remarkably better off. That only sounds controversial if you are ignorant to the literature on sleep.
Doc parsley and I met at a NSW (Naval Special Warfare) gig many years ago and it was both stunning and remarkably validating that we had arrived at essentially the same perspective on how to help people: Take a look at the evolutionary template of humans, and figure out what we are doing that might be seriously at odds with our genetics and epigenetics. Sleep, food, exercise, photoperiod, community. Under community I’d put in people, nature and our gut-biome.
Sleep is an interesting topic in that there IS push back about the importance of sleep. Certain communities (Police, Fire, Military, Medicine) wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. It shows they are “hard.” This is “how it’s always been done.” Doc Parsley shows that these same communities (and the rest of us who are under slept) are running at often dangerously sub-optimal levels due to sleep debt. There are numerous strategies for dealing with situations which force a poor sleep schedule upon us, but you cannot “hack” your way out of biology. Well, I guess a machete applied to the cervical spine could solve a lot of problems, but that’s a different topic. All that aside, sleep IS interesting in that although there is a culture that thinks they can get by without sleep, there is not the religious dogma that surrounds a topic like food. If we want to start helping people, and do it in a fast, effective way, start with sleep.
Please watch this video. If you run a website, embed it and make this a landing page for folks who come to you for help with their health. Make a sleep page, get this thing at the top. If you have better sense than to run a blog, please share this far and wide. Get it to Fire and Police Chief’s. Get it to hospital administrators. Get it to the folks who determine what time our kid’s schools start.