Whether it’s because of the cat, a glass of water or a midnight bathroom break, we all wake up in the middle of the night. But if you’re involuntarily waking up at the same time regularly, your body may be telling you something’s wrong.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which focuses on the mind-body connection, suggests that we all have an internal organ clock. Based on a 24-hour clock, every organ functions best at a specific time and is linked to an underlying emotion.
Although this differs from other kinds of medicine, it’s an interesting take on this common phenomenon. To understand what your body may be telling you, here are five time periods on the internal organ clock and what TCM says they indicate about your emotional state.
9 – 11 p.m.: Endocrine system
The endocrine system is made up of all the glands in the body that create hormones. According to TCM, hormonal balance is regulated at this time. Monda Dan, a TCM acupuncturist and founder of Vie Healing spa in Los Angeles, says that as your body resets itself for the next day, this is the best time for sleep.
If it’s difficult to fall asleep at this time, you may have a high level of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone). To regain hormonal balance, TCM suggests a stress-free bedtime routine or meditation.
11 p.m. – 1 a.m.: Gallbladder
The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ located under the liver. It stores bile, which helps digest fats after a meal. According to Dr. Lyndsay Wareham, a naturopathic doctor at Moncton Neuropathic Medical Clinic in Moncton, Canada, the gallbladder is in charge of self-esteem and decision-making.
If you’re not asleep by this time, you may be depleting your gallbladder’s energy stores, which can lead to poor self-esteem and judgment over time.
If you find yourself waking up at this time, you may be suffering an internal timidity or a shaky self-worth. If you’re feeling this way, practice self-affirming mantras to help fall asleep.
1 – 3 a.m.: Liver
If you find yourself waking up at this time, you could be repressing serious anger or frustration.
In TCM, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of blood, emotions, and Qi, or energy flow. According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation, the liver is most associated with anger.
If you had an irritable day or have trouble letting things go, try drinking a cool glass of water to encourage healthy blood production.
3 a.m. – 5 a.m.: Lungs
The lungs are responsible for moving Qi through the entire body, as well as providing immune protection, according to TCM. Inspiration, sadness and grief are emotions associated with the lungs. At this time, toxic waste may be loosened from the lungs, helping you let go of physical and emotional negativity.
If you find yourself waking up at this time, you may be struggling with grief or sorrow. Focus on addressing and accepting your grief to return to sleep.
5 – 7 a.m.: Large Intestines
This period of the morning is connected to the large intestines. Dr. Wareham says the large intestine “is all about ‘letting go’ physically and emotionally.” Similar to the lungs, the large intestines may help to release emotional distress. If you find yourself waking up at this time, you may have an emotional blockage or feel stuck. To go back to sleep, try stretching or using the bathroom.