As promised on The Paleo Solution Podcast #270 this is the first installment of a three part blog series on sleep from Doc Parsley!
Many people have heard of the concept that humans use the sun to adjust their biological clock. The overall driver of the biological clock is the circadian-rhythm controlling the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus for you neuro geeks out there)—often called the “master clock”.
But what does that really mean, what does the “master clock” really control, and what can we do about it?
To answer that, we have to talk a little bit of science—not too much—but some:
Humans (like every other life form on earth) use the light of the sun to regulate biological activities. Single-celled organisms and plants do it in a different way than more complex animals. We humans use our eyes. Our eyes have special nerve cells in them that sense a certain frequency of light (blue light), and let the rest of our bodies know—via our brain—what we should be preparing for. As the light decreases in our eyes, those nerves send that information to our brain’s “master clock” (SCN) which prompts the SCN to release chemicals that beget other chemicals, and ultimately change the activity levels of different areas of our brain, to get us ready for sleep. The SCN also notifies another area of our brain—called the pineal gland—that it’s time to start winding down, and in return the pineal gland starts secreting a hormone that many have heard of: melatonin.
Melatonin has many functions on many areas of the brain, but one of the main functions is to decrease our adrenal hormone secretions—because our adrenal gland’s job, is to keep us awake, alert, and ready for life.
Of course this is an oversimplification, and Dan Pardi (in his rightful awesomeness) will want to murder me over this explanation, but it gives us enough information to continue.
I can hear you all now; “Doc, can you give me an example of how all this affects us”? Well, luckily I can. Most Americans get to experience a small piece of this magical pathway on a special Thursday every year. I’m talking about the well-known Thanksgiving Day “tryptophan coma”. I’m not sure if any other countries have a designated day for excessive turkey ingestion, but they should!
If you haven’t heard of the amino acid Tryptophan, don’t worry. It’s not important to know the name, but it is one of the many amino acids that turkey has in spades. The unique thing about tryptophan, is that it is one of the primary nutrients used to produce melatonin. So, when we eat a bunch of tryptophan, our body can make a bunch of melatonin, and that can make us feel like taking a nap, right after over-stuffing ourselves. There’s a little more to it than that, but again, it serves our purposes here.
So, if we combine these two principles (light/SCN, and Melatonin production) we can get a sense of a few things that can go wrong with our wiring for good sleep in the modern society we find ourselves in.
First, we obviously have light streaming into our eyes, long after the sun has gone down. This is error number one, and very common. Due to the pathways we discussed above, electric lighting interferes with our SCN’s control of our biological clock—since our eyes are telling our brain that there is still plenty of light in the sky. This is why people tell you to quit watching TV, and using computers right before bed. Some folks try to block this light with special glasses, screen covers, and computer programs. All of these things help, but let’s keep in mind that they are only mitigating the deleterious effects—not removing them.
The second application of all of the geeky science above is a little more subtle. I told you that our adrenals keep us awake, alert, and ready for life. Unfortunately, many people in our post-industrialization world have lives that require them to be awake longer, more alert, and more ready than our ancestors did. This leads to an excess of adrenal hormones (also called stress hormones), and as you may have guessed, requires significantly more melatonin to decrease our adrenal function before bed.
So now we have two ways that melatonin production is being hindered:
1) No — or a significantly reduced — trigger from decreased light to tell the brain to make the magic happen.
2) We need more than our bodies are designed to produce, because we live such hectic lives. In essence, our adrenals are “too active” which requires more melatonin to quiet them down. This incidentally can lead to decreased serotonin levels, which, not surprisingly, can make us feel depressed.
And I’ll add one – ok more than one — more: because of our environment, work schedules, nutrition, toxins, and messing with our stress hormones, many of us are deficient in multiple compounds needed to make melatonin.
That is all of the science you need to know to understand one of the major reasons and goals behind our sleep product “Doc Parsley’s Sleep Cocktail”. There is no big trick or bio-hack to make you sleep, we simply supplement all of the major compounds needed to produce melatonin, and give you just a little supportive boost (literally VERY little) of melatonin—to make up for that extra light in your eyes after sundown and extra stress from the lives so many of us are living.
It sounds too simple to be true, but it has worked for the most sleep deranged patients I have ever had. It has worked for hundreds of SEALs, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, CEO’s and homemakers—and it will work for you.
Here are some takeaways to help improve your sleep:
1) Decrease the blue light entering your eyes, at least 3 hours before bed. This can be done with blue blocking glasses, blue light shields on smartphones, and a computer program called “f.lux”
2) Remember that light (without blue light) is still stimulating to your brain, so keep all devices and lamps as dim as possible.
3) Do your most “stimulating” or stressful activities early in the day—as far from bedtime as possible. Late night exercise can shift circadian rhythms too.
To learn more about the product click here.
Get 10% off your purchase with the discount code: robbwolf10
Before you go curl up in bed: I have left out one other way that the product improves sleep (besides the melatonin production and boost)—GABA. However, you’ll have to wait for the next blog post to learn more about why we need GABA to sleep, and why we use the GABA product that we do. Until then; Get Some Sleep!!
How many days do you have to take for it to work? I’ve tried it a few days and still can’t get to sleep till 2am and go to bed at 9:30. Can you take more than one packet and can you take anything else like kava kava along with it?
Robb Wolf says
You can certainly try 2 packets…interestingly however we ahve found that higher doses sometime do not work as well. I’d try two things:
1-Try taking 2 packets. Report back.
2-If that is not working, try 1/2 a pack! Certain folks can be paradoxical responders and may actually do better on a smaller dose. If you are on the “smaller female” side then I’d actually do option 2 first.
I think Robb is right for trying 2 packs, but it depends on WHY you aren’t able to fall asleep. Let’s explore:
There are a few reasons why the product may not be helping you:
1) Have you been taking prescriptions sleep aids for a while?
2) Do you take medication for anxiety or depression?
3) Are you going through a major life stressor? Divorce? Grieving a loss? Bankruptcy? etc.
4) When are you shutting down light saturation?
5) How long have you had this problem?
#1,2– can lead to a down regulation in GABA receptors. And therefore a higher dosage of our product (higher GABAergic effect) may help.
#3–Has a host a problems we’d need talk about, but ironically Serotonin is actually a wake-promoting neurotransmitter, and the production of serotonin is part of the making melatonin.
#4–The product is not magic, and cannot completely overcome lack of sleep hygiene?
#5–If this is a “life-long” problem, you may need some CBT?
#6–Are you on other medications? These may need to be adjusted.
I’m not asking you to answer these in a public forum, just giving you some ideas.
If you think you fit neatly into one of these categories, and you want my advice please go to my site: http://www.docparsley.com and send me an email question, so I can respond directly to you.
If we find out your problem is common, we can distribute the information more widely–without your name being involved! 🙂
I hope that helps.
Hi! Is this product good for sleep maintenance insomnia?
I have ZERO problems falling asleep (go to bed around 9 pm), but wake up most nights around 2-2:30 and have a hard time falling back to sleep.
Robb Wolf says
Yes, it should help. The product attempts to address as many facets of sleep as possible (initiation, maintenance etc). If you give it a whirl please do let me know how it goes.
What about staying asleep through the night and waking at 5am when I want to wake at 7am?
Robb Wolf says
AMY! I touched on that a few comments up…should help.
Daniel Pardi says
Kirk, Lol! I’m all about giving enough info but not too much. Nice job.
Evan Hobson says
Rob and Kirk, thanks for putting this information out there. While I know that there is plenty of material on sleep, having it simplified and explained in a practical sense is immensely helpful. It’s a pity we can’t yet get the product in South Africa, but I can definitely continue with the sleep hygiene. This has been immensely helpful together with the ~8hr half life of caffeine which has resulted in me pulling my coffee consumption right back. I really appreciate the work you’re both doing, keep pushing out the information.
Robb Wolf says
thanks for the Kind words Evan. We will get this out internationally as fast as we can.
Amber J says
Great post Robb!
You mentioned f.lux – is that a computer program for reducing blue light from your laptop/computer?
Robb Wolf says
Yes indeed! https://justgetflux.com/
Any luck with shipping internationally yet guys? Love to get some in Australia.
I was told international shipping should be coming in a few months or so.
Hi if you suffer from anxiety and panic and take anti anxiety medicine at night is it still alright to take this?
I’ve been using the Sleep Cocktail for about two weeks now, and contrary to Doc Parsley “The product is not magic” (from a comment above), there seems to be more than a little magic present.
It works great! I am sleeping better than I have in years. (Sleep maintenance was my problem). I already had a rigorous sleep hygiene routine and adding the Sleep Cocktail was like magic – everything seemed to click.
Congratulations on a GREAT product!
Robb Wolf says
Thanks for the feedback Ward!
I would be interested in trying out this product, as I’ve had chronic severe insomnia for a long time, despite following all of the sleep hygiene recommendations. However, I’m concerned about the artificial sweeteners in this product. I have multiple autoimmune diseases, and I’ve read that those type of sweeteners can mess up out guts and aggravate these problems. Any suggestions or comments about this? Thanks.
Robb Wolf says
Xylitol and stevia are both naturally occurring products. Xylitol May actually have some benefits in certian aspects of the digestive system:
So, I do not think these will be a problem, but let’s play devil’s advocate and say they might. Dose is always a consideration and we use tiny amounts of xylitol and stevia. Now, let’s consider the trade-off between better sleep and the benefits this will have on AI conditions…is that a net win relative to the unlikely situation that these ingredients are GI irritants (which I can find no indications that they are)? I’d say the sleep improvements will win out here. but clearly only experimentation will bare this out.
Keep me posted.
1 Hour Athlete says
Great article Robb,
I’d previously had some difficulties falling asleep but since using flux I’m able to work late into the night without having my hormones mixed up from the blue light of my device!
No mention of potassium? I found that my sleeping problems are due to low potassium, which I simply cannot seem to get from the diet even after potatoes, milk, bananas and avocado. I am instead keeping sodium intake low. But that sucks 🙂
Men are from Mars , Women are from Venus. Neither are from Earth. You should remember that and adjust your intake accordingly. Most sleep problems are derived from the complex 24 dash 7 mechanism in continuous mode with no break. Give it a break. Maybe every other 73.43 hours give or take 3 and half revolutions.
Christine Lehmann says
Good post. I would add that noise can also disrupt sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper. To reduce sounds, you may want to close your windows at night, turn off computers, and mute or turn off media notifications from your iphone. People will text or email at all hours so that’s one way to preserve your sleep.
Definitely, and ear plugs if needed.
How much melatonin supplement are we talking about?
Scott Jasper says
Great article. You made the neuroscience very easy to understand. I follow those principles too. I do all my exercise in the morning and limit the amount of light I see at night time.
Krystal Covington says
Wow, thanks for sharing this. It really gives a solid understanding of what gets us to sleep and why so many people struggle to get to bed each night (myself included). I will definitely look forward to trying Doc Parsley’s product.
Great article! Shows us that everyone can suffer from sleeping issues. Maybe we should all keep a log on what we do everyday – this way, we can understand what is going on with our brains.
Keep up the great work done here!
Thanks for sharing this great post Robb. Glad that you had mentioned about f.lux. Will definitely show this post to my husband as he’s the one who always stares at his Ipad.
Julia Kruz says
Great reminder. It is addictive to stay next to the computer until bed time. I sleep better when stop doing any reading from the screen couple of hours before bed. Great share. Thanks
Was all set to order the sleep remedy when I checked out the ingredients list and saw that it was sweetened. So disappointed. 🙁 Why? Why do products have to have added sweeteners in them as if we were babies who would spit it out if it didn’t taste sweet? If you ever decide to make a clean formula, please shout it from the rooftops, so I can try it.
It is sweetened with stevia, so shouldn’t have the issues with blood glucose that sugar might. I’m sure they’ll take your opinion on it into account though.
I used GABA a number of years ago along with other supplements to get me over quite severe sleep problems. Over the course of a couple of months it worked really well in sorting out my issues. I would definitely recommend people check it out if they have sleep issues.
I found the most relief for my sleep issues when I started using cannabis high in CBD!
This is all very good information. There is one huge missing piece, however. Women who are experiencing peri-menopause or full blown menopause often have debilitating sleep issues. What would the advice be in cases like this? The same? Or potentially different?
Sleeping is tough because of the neuropathy I have in both legs from the knee down. If I cover up and get warm is makes the issue worse. Robb I saw where you recommended 500mg of magnesium before bed and sleeping at 65 degrees. Very much nervous to try 65 but thinking about it. Any tips to shut the neuropathy down. Not sleeping much at all. Getting 3-4 hours a night. Need much more rest.