The ancient Chinese believed that humans are the embodiment of their surroundings and intricately connected with nature. When Yin and Yang (defined as opposing forces) are in balance you feel relaxed, energized, and focused. If out of balance, it can have a negative effect on your health and sleep. This philosophy is part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 2000 years. TCM practice looks to restore the balance between the internal body organs and the external elements of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal. A balance between health and disease is crucial for long-term healthy living.
How Does the Chinese Body Clock Work?
The word “disease” is defined in this case as disruption or alteration of the normal flow of Qi (pronounced “Chee”). Qi is thought to have three prominent influences: external or environmental factors, your internal emotions, and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Qi is the life force or energy we produce in our body, and we all possess it. For Yin and Yang to be balanced, Qi must flow freely and maintain harmony. When we have too little or too much or when Qi is blocked, we risk potential illnesses.
Electromagnetic frequency waves, indoor toxins, lost job, a recent death in the family, poor sleep habits, smoking, drinking, and lack of exercise all interrupt our daily Qi and by becoming aware of these existing influences we can make positive changes to a healthier life. In TCM it is believed that Qi flows through our organ system, the kidneys, heart, spleen, liver, lung, gallbladder, small intestine, and large intestine, by way of meridians (energy pathways of the body). This flow exists perpetually inside our bodies and understanding how it affects our daily life is a step toward achieving a better healthy lifestyle.
Let us look at the body clock chart and examine what happens during our typical sleep hours from 10PM – 6AM to get our recommended 8 hours of sleep. Some of us may go to bed earlier, at around 8PM which is good news for those who are trying to add a new member to the family 😉.
From 7-9PM the Pericardium functions to protect the heart, provide blood circulation, and reflect both the physiological and the mental-emotional being that oversees our relationships with others. It is also believed to connect us to the Ming Men (Gate of Vitality). In a modern interpretation, it is the best time to have sex and conceive.
From 9-11PM the San Jiao (aka Triple Burner) does not correspond to a single organ in Western anatomy and physiology. It refers to three layers, the top burner deals with breathing, the middle burner relates to digestion and the lower burner involves urinary and intestinal systems. Its actions involve the movement of Qi: the entering/exiting, ascending/descending of qi in the organs, and the movement of water passages and excretion of fluids. It kicks off the regulatory and repair functions of the body and is the best time to get into your stages of sleep.
As we move to the wood element (Midnight to 3AM) we look at the gallbladder for cellular repair and the liver for blood detoxification. The gallbladder is considered the “Curious Organ” because it has a close relationship with the liver and oversees storing and controlling bile, sinews, decisiveness and influences the quality and length of sleep. The liver’s primary function is storing and cleaning the blood and ensuring balanced flow of Qi. This is a valuable time to be in deep sleep so your body can repair and recover. Outside influences like stress, anger, frustration, and alcohol can disrupt this time.
From 3-5AM the lungs go to work; they fight off colds to keep us healthy. This is a time of deep sleep with memories and vivid dreams. The lung channel handles grief, worry, and stress emotions that weaken the body and your immune system. If you are having a challenging time, nourish your lung meridian, stay in bed and rest.
From 5-7AM your body starts to activate and typically our large intestine system promotes the first bowel movement. Overnight the active system breaks down the waste in the intestine and now it signals your body to wake up and start your morning routine.
The Chinese Body clock discussed is just an entry-level understanding of how your body works and what different organ systems are performing throughout the day. It is part of the discovery of TCM and one’s journey to seek knowledge for better sleep, exercise, and diet. Part of the journey may include alternative and organic solutions that provide relief to common health issues.
WHAT IS TCM GOOD FOR? Source:
- Back pain
- Fertility disorders
- Digestive disorders
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart disease
- Infections (respiratory, bladder, vaginal)
- Sleep problems
Chronobiology is the study of circadian rhythms. Wiki defines it as a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours. Like the Chinese Body Clock, our amazing body self-regulates internal functions for maximum performance and health. Throughout the day our brain sends signals to organs and performs tasks to regulate and promote good health. If we eat well, exercise daily, socialize with friends and family, get sunlight exposure, and most importantly, get a good night’s rest we should all be healthy.
Let us look at this circadian body clock chart and compare it to the Chinese Body Clock. Take notice, both start the sleep cycle around 8 to 9PM and end around 6 to 7AM. That is close to 50% of your life spent on sleeping, which allows our bodies to heal and grow. This is why you so often hear the recommendation to sleep 8 hours a day. In addition, both are affected by sunlight exposure which helps you synchronize your biological clock.
Noontime is important since this is when the heart is full of energy and your organs are actively working. Eating a balanced diet followed by exercise allows the small intestines, bladder, and kidney to function properly and maximize your strength and conditioning efforts. Enjoy the outdoors with physical activities, drink plenty of water and keep it simple at the beginning if you have not exercised regularly. Create a goal and slowly chip away with small successes, do not beat yourself up with unrealistic expectations since this will only add to your stress levels. We are not in competition with anyone but ourselves.
How Can I Implement the Chinese Body Clock?
Creating and sticking to a regular routine will help regulate your mood, cognitive function, stress levels, sleep, and overall health. As kids, our parents created routines to foster confidence and growth. Time to sleep, time to eat, time to bathe, and time to go to school. As adults, we have lots of responsibilities that alter our normal routines and that is ok. We need to put an emphasis on creating better sleep habits and committing to our routines to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
- Every morning – get outside for 10-15 minutes and soak in the sunlight.
- Eat a balanced and healthy breakfast to start your day. If you enjoy coffee, do it now and not at 10PM at night.
- Find time in your busy schedule to get 30 minutes of exercise. Take a mental break from the screen and get outside to soak up some more positive sunlight.
- Eliminate environmental toxins, chemicals, pesticides, and other harmful substances found around the home and office.
- Drink water throughout the day to keep you hydrated
- Take an afternoon nap to recharge and limit it to 20 minutes.
- Prepare and plan healthy meals – eat a hearty breakfast to start your day, a balanced lunch to keep you going all day, and a light dinner to provide nutrients while you recover during the long sleep hours you should be getting.
- Avoid exercise and caffeine before you go to bed
- Remove all electronics and stimulants from the bedroom
- Invest in your quality of sleep. Look for organic and non-toxic mattresses, sheets, and pillows that allow your body to breathe and sleep comfortably.
- Take 5-10 minutes to exercise deep breathing and mental relaxation techniques
- It takes time to create change and implement new habits, be committed to your plan.
Enjoy your path! Get to know your body and start living a better healthy lifestyle today!