Do you notice that if you wake up during the night, and lie there awake, then roll over and check the time, that it is often the same time each night that you're waking. Well, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the theory is that the particular time you're waking might just be related to an emotion and perhaps even a deficiency in your health. Understanding the body clock has been used in Chinese Medicine for centuries, so I thought you might be interested in reading it. And, I'd love to know your thoughts.
The "Body Clock"
Many people report that they fall asleep easily, but wake at the same time in the middle of the night. How annoying to wake in the middle of the night, especially if you can't fall back asleep and wake up tired the next day. The concept of an “Organ Clock" in Chinese medicine is a useful tool in understanding why this occurs. In Chinese medicine, energy or qi, moves through the body’s meridians and organs in a 24 hour cycle. Every two hours the qi (or energy) is strongest within a particular organ and its functions within the body. And that's not all - the body, mind and emotions are inseparable in Chinese medicine - meaning that if you have disharmony in your physical body, it is tied to your emotional state. So if you wake up at 3 AM, when Liver energy peaks, you may be suffering from Liver Qi stagnation, which could be related to an unhealthy diet, excess alcohol consumption, unresolved anger or high levels of stress. If you consistently wake at 4 AM - it could be due to an imbalance in your Lungs, which is related to grief and sadness, fatigue, or reduced immune function.
When is the best time to fall asleep?
We know from modern sleep science that those hours of sleep before midnight are crucial It's when we experience the deepest prt of sleep, and this deep sleep (of Slow Wave Sleep) is our most restorative. During this time, the stress hormones cortisol is reduced and parasympathetic nervous system activity is actually increased, which allows us to fully rest and move away from the fight of flight responses that dominate during the waking hours. In Chinese Medicine, those hours before midnight are considered just as important, as they believe that's when the liver and gall bladder start to regulate qi, process emotions, balance hormones and detoxify the body.
Check out the guide below to find some insight into why you might be waking up at a certain hour. Yoga, meditation, physical activity, a healthy diet and adhering to a consistent bed time will also greatly impact your sleep.
9 PM - 11 PM // Triple Burner (related to the Heart and Pericardium)
Emotion: Joy or lack of joy, depression, hopelessness.
Functions: The Triple Burner is not a distinct organ but is related to our endocrine and lymphatic systems. It controls metabolism within the body.
Symptoms of imbalance: Mania, feelings of guilt, depression, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, sluggish metabolism, frequent headaches, fatigue, earaches, swollen lymph nodes, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorder, alternating chills and fever.
Tips: Consider going to bed earlier, establish a calming nighttime routine, avoid artificial light after 9pm.
11 PM - 1 AM // Gall Bladder (strongly tied to the Liver)
Functions: The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile to facilitate proper digestion. It also rules the decision making process, controls the sinews and tendons and governs dreams.
Symptoms of imbalance: Indecision, frequent sighing, rash decisions, poor judgement, difficulty making decisions, shyness, timidity, high cholesterol, resentment, dream-disturbed sleep, weak tendons, tendonitis.
Tips: Avoid alcohol, transfats and spicy foods. Eat a small dinner well before bedtime and avoid snacking before bed.
1 AM - 3 AM // Liver
Functions: The Liver is responsible for detoxifying our bodies and processing emotions each night. The Liver stores the blood and governs the qi of the body. It is associated with the tendons, nails and eyes. Think back to a night when you had too much to drink or a period of intense frustration at work. Did you wake up around between 1-3am unable to fall back asleep? From a Chinese medicine perspective your liver was overloaded with and struggled to do its work.
Symptoms of imbalance: Explosive outbursts of anger, bottled up emotions, resentment, irritability, moodiness, frustration, high blood pressure, chest distention, PMS, bitter taste in mouth, digestive upset, dizziness, migraine headache, breast tenderness, blurred vision, eye floaters, red face, tendonitis, frequent sighing.
Tips: Make sure to drink alcohol in moderation and eat your last meal a few hours before bed. Consider a whole foods cleanse. Cut out coffee for a week and replace it with green tea. Find ways to deal with your anger and frustrations in a healthy way. Get regular exercise.
3 AM - 5 AM // Lung
Functions: The Lungs govern the respiratory and immune system, regulate the sweat glands, and moisten the skin.
Symptoms of imbalance: Feelings of sadness or grief that have not been dealt with, shortness of breath, sweating easily, weak voice, shallow breathing, fatigue, cough, frequent cold/flu, fever with chills, sore throat, runny nose, headache, allergies, asthma, chest pain, pale complexion, dry skin, depression, crying.
Tips: Try breathing exercises, meditation or yoga to improve your lung capacity. Consider getting counseling or talking to a friend about feelings of sadness or grief. Write in your journal about your emotions before bed each night.