top of page


I'll Sleep When I'm Dead ...

I regret that I said this many times in the past prior to “enlightenment”, and my lovely wife Lindsay reminds me of it. The argument I like is the anthropological one, namely; why would we spend 500 million years evolving to create an average of 8 hours sleep pattern if it wasn’t

of high value. Humans risked predation, lost work or reproduction opportunities, to spend one-third of their 24 hour day in this sleep state. Sleep reduction experiments show quickly how mental, physical, and immune function deteriorate quickly within a few days.

The new book “Why We Sleep” by Mathew Walker PHD clarifies why this passive practice is foundational to good health. Dr. Walker reports sleep is like a “Swiss Army Knife that can fix most illness” and all “23 mental diagnosis have sleep disruption as a major symptom or possible cause”. One might even go as far to say: “Before one undergoes diagnosis for a mental or even physical disorder, and get labeled for life, attempt to fix the sleep first and see if the problem continues”.

Most of the wellness conferences I attend now report that good, high-quality sleep is the most important thing not to screw up. Here is what good sleep can do for you:

  • Restores the immune system

  • Reboots sex hormones

  • Helps the brain release lymphatic toxins and recover for the next day

  • Allows the liver and G.I. tract to process the evening's dinner and then detoxify itself


There are many sleep trackers, but I like the Oura Ring have been an early user and have spoken with their developers over the last few years. I anticipate this will be used in health monitoring of cancer patients and may replace sleep lab visits. The ring gives you an excellent cell phone interface that shows you the architecture of your sleep and let you know how much deep, REM and light sleep you get each night and then gives you a readiness score with suggestions. I have experimented with various sleep aids over the years and followed outcome with my personal Oura Ring and also feedback from patient experiences. A quick list of inexpensive easy things that work include:

  • Setting an alarm to go to bed a few hours after dark when diurnal rhythm will give us the best deep sleep (midnight used to be the middle of the night)

  • Consider taking your magnesium dose in the evening as this helps with staying asleep and in muscle relaxation (start at 200 mg and go up to 1000 milligrams but be careful of possible laxative effect)

  • Turn down your lights, screens 1 to 2 hours before bedtime and consider using blue blocking glasses, and make sure you use “Night shift” on your phone and computer to automatically block the blue light that tells the brain it is “daytime”

  • Keep your room cool or consider taking a hot shower or bath before bedtime so you're cooling off and your melatonin level will rise, consider the "Sleep Induction mat” (about 25 dollars at and it induces an acupressure like endorphin response and helps put you into a slumber in 8 to 10 minutes)

  • Create a ritual for the steps going to sleep and pay attention to keeping things as dark as possible with the use of eyeshades, blackout curtains, earplugs if necessary. If a spouse snores and that is a problem, there is a new product called Smart Nora to take a look at but of course, steer your spouse to sleep work up as well.

  • Challenge yourself to add 30 minutes to your sleep-time until you can wake up relaxed without an alarm.

  • Do not make the mistake of accepting inadequate sleep to exercise or study more as the trade-off will hurt you long-term.

  • Sleep medicines should be evaluated very carefully and only used short-term, long-term uses have may cause dementia and many times one does not get deep sleep similar to a night of heavy drinking.

  • A common corrupter of deep sleep is large late meals, alcohol, or emotional triggering events like arguments or scary movies. The physiologic dose of melatonin is .5 mg to 1 mg, yet many preparations have 5 to 10 times that amount. I would recommend you avoid using it except in a low dose and similar to what the body produces. If you want to try something natural and the chamomile teas, valerian teas or supplements, and lavender aromas don't work, Navy Seal and physician Kurt Parsley’s combination product called Sleep Remedy  worked with most of my patients with no adverse effects. Kurt is a sleep expert and has helped many Navy SEALs recover the rhythm of sleep despite their unpredictable schedule. He was always kind enough to give me samples to try with our cancer patients before they purchased it on the Internet.

bottom of page