Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, say between 3 and 4 am, not because of a bad dream or an alarm clock? Do you have problems sleeping from time to time? Has waking up at 4 am already become a regular event in your sleep cycles? Blame it on your body clock.
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There are many causes of restless sleep. One of them takes inspiration from the theory of the Chinese body clock. The theory holds that our body follows a certain biorhythm and our various organs are always most active at a certain time of day. The life energy responsible for this is called the ‘qi’.
What's behind this ‘qi’?
The principle of the Chinese body clock is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an ancient healing art from the Far East. You’ve most likely heard of qigong or acupuncture, which are pillars of TCM and have now also become established in the West. In fact, TCM consists of five fields; acupuncture and qigong each describe one, much like herbal medicine for example, forms a part of European medicine.
A tenet of TCM is that there is an energy within and all around us – the aforementioned qi. In the best-case scenario, this energy flows unhindered, but it can also falter. In the human body it moves along invisible energy pathways, the so-called meridians, which cross all parts of the body. Over the course of 24 hours, qi flows through every cell, and for about two hours supplies one organ in particular with especially good vital energy. This sequence forms the foundation of the Chinese body clock, and in each of these two-hour periods, the corresponding organ has its absolute energy peak. Roughly 12 hours later, however, it hits rock bottom.
Our organs and the body clock
The body clock thus describes the phase in which our organs are bursting with energy and when they would prefer to rest. To better understand how this behaviour can affect our well-being and our sleep, let's take a closer look at the internal clock of the organs and their functions.
1-3 am: The liver (rest time: 1-3 pm)
In TCM, our liver represents life – without it, admittedly, we'd be pretty screwed, because it's one of the most important organs involved in detoxification. While we’re probably already sleeping soundly between 1-3 am, the liver is working at top speed during these two hours to break down substances and toxins that are foreign or useless to our bodies.
3-5 am: Lungs (rest time: 3-5 pm)
In the period from 3-5 am, life energy flows through the organ that takes of our breathing – our lungs. Do you wake up between 3-4 am every now and then? You can probably guess which organ this may be related to, at least according to TCM.
5-7 am: Large intestine (rest time: 5-7 pm)
This time interval belongs to the colon on the body clock. It is most active in the early morning hours when the digestive tract is stimulated. For the lark sleep types among us, who are already awake at this time, this period is great for going to the toilet and detoxifying your body.
7-9 am: Stomach (rest time: 7-9 pm)
This time interval of 7-9 am is highly suitable for food intake, because this is when the stomach is flooded with energy and digestion in full swing. TCM recommends a warm and balanced breakfast in the morning to make the most of the vital energy in this phase.
9-11 am: Spleen (rest time: 9-11 pm)
Among other things, the spleen is involved in the formation of blood cells, blood purification and immune defence. The body is at its peak performance: Our power of resistance and ability to heal wounds reach record-breaking levels during this period. Therefore, according to TCM, it is an excellent time to take examins or carry out operations.
11am - 1pm: Heart (rest time: 9pm - 1 am)
11am-1pm is literally the best time to pour your heart out. Enjoyable conversation and social interaction enable the qi to flow effortlessly at lunchtime, which makes it the ideal time for a chat with colleagues. The heart’s rest time from 11 pm to 1 am also speaks for the fact that you should call it a night no later than that, as emotions are better left for the next day.
1-3 pm: Small intestine (rest time: 1-3 am)
The small intestine is essential to digestion and is mainly responsible for processing nutrients and passing them on to the blood or the large intestine. A lot of energy is expended on this, which also means that our ability to perform and concentrate decreases. In order for the qi to develop its full power here, it makes sense to follow your body clock and give your body some rest. The ideal time for a power nap.
3-5 pm: Urinary bladder (rest time: 3-5 am)
The ‘food coma’ of the previous phase is followed by a second energy high. Our ability to concentrate, but also our physical performance, increases enormously during this phase. This burst of energy tempts you to submit to focusing intently on your work. This is definitely a good idea, but if you’re looking to act in accordance with the body clock during this time, it’s important not to forget to drink liquids and let the bladder do its best work.
5-7 pm: Kidney (rest time: 5-7 am)
Our kidneys are essential for survival, as they are responsible for blood purification and detoxification. In the 5-7 pm interval, the body clock suggests that we slow down a bit and get ready for our power save mode. This is a good time for a relaxing bath followed by a light meal. A delicious sleep-inducing meal will ensure that your body can prepare for a healthy night's rest.
7-9 pm: Pericardium (rest time: 7-9 am)
The pericardium surrounds our heart, which is why TCM describes it as the ‘master of the heart’. Provided the energy can flow freely and we keep our body clock intact, it keeps our emotions in balance. If you make yourself cosy from 7 to 9 pm, or if you enjoy some downtime with family and friends, you’re doing everything right for your organs’ internal clock.
9-11 pm: ‘Triple warmer’ (rest time: 9-11 am).
The so-called triple warmer does not describe a single organ. Instead, it encompasses the body region around the chest, abdominal cavity and pubic region. The meridian is involved here is responsible for heat regulation and the free flow of qi through all other organs. According to TCM, it makes sense to relax and let your thoughts and feelings run free during this period. Fancy a sleep ritual with our Hemp Sleep Spray? The time is now!
11pm-1 am: Gallbladder (rest time: 11am-1pm)
Our gallbladder stores bile, which also plays an important role in detoxifying the body and processing nutrients. Around this time, our sleep clock turns on, because the heart reaches its energy-lowpoint here. It’s time for deep regeneration: In other words, off to bed!
Sleep better with the help of the sleep clock
TCM, believes that living in harmony with the Chinese body clock can have a positive impact on our sleep – which is why the body clock is sometimes referred to as the ‘sleep clock’. According to a study by the DAK, about 80% of all working people in Germany suffer from sleep disorders, and this number is on the rise. If you’re one of the people who suffer from this and you’ve already tried everything from sleep routines, optimal sleep hygiene,natural sleep aids to sleeping naked (yes, in fact, this is supposed to have a positive effect on our sleep quality!), you should take a closer look at your sleep clock.
We've put together five useful tips on how to make your sleep clock work just right for you:
- The liver launches its turbo program at 1 am and ends it at 3 am, at least according to the body clock. If you tend to sleep restlessly, especially during this interval, this may indicate an unhealthy lifestyle. Your liver is happy when it’s not asked to expend extra energy breaking down alcohol, nicotine or fatty foods. As you might imagine, it’s recommendable to give up wine, smoking and heavy food in the evening!
- And speaking of food, since your stomach enjoys resting between 7 and 9 pm, it’s probably best to eat dinner before 7 pm. Any later than that, your stomach has less energy for digestion, and the food you’ve eaten literally falls heavy on your stomach. This can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Do you often wake up between 3-4 am? It’s most likely your lungs calling. To give them the ideal conditions for deep, oxygen-rich breathing, you should ventilate properly before going to bed or sleep by opening the window. Give it a try, it might help with insomnia, and make waking up at 4am a thing of the past.
- One absolute no-go if you’re inclined to obey your sleep clock: indulging late night cravings! The small intestine goes into energy saving mode from 1-3 am and therefore has no fuel for processing nutrients.
- In the phase from 9-11 pm, new life energy is formed with the help of the triple warmer. This takes up a lot of energy, which means your blood pressure and pulse rate shift down a gear. This time is best used to prepare for a well-deserved night's rest. Avoid physical exertion and emotional turmoil, and indulge in quiet activities like meditation or reading. Also, using CBD can make be a wonderful contribution to your relaxation.
When you draw on the knowledge of TCM, you can pursue a lifestyle that contributes to the flow of qi and leads to health and happiness. In other words, following the Chinese body clock can lead to promising consequences. So far there are no scientific studies that confirm the principle of the body clock, but it can’t hurt to try it out. On that note: Let that energy flow!