The Chinese Body Clock: Why do I feel differently at different hours of the day?

Have you ever wondered why your energy levels fluctuate and your moods change during the day? What else can influence them other than what you eat and how you feel and hormone and brain chemical fluctuations. Just like Biorhythms affect us on a daily basis there is another rhythm that influences us. The Traditional Chinese (TCM) medicine has discovered that there is a body clock that is reflected in the energy meridians that are linked to the organs.

The body energy clock reflects the cyclical ebb and flow energy throughout the body. The 24 hour clock is divided into 12 two hour intervals of the Chi (vital force) moving through the organ system. During sleep, Chi is drawn inward to restore the body. This phase is completed between 1 and 3 am when the liver cleanses the blood and performs a myriad of functions that set the stage for the Chi to move outward again.

So the 12 hour period after the peak functioning of the liver from 3 am forward are the energy cycles of the organs associated with daily activity, digestion and elimination. They are the lungs, large intestine, stomach, spleen/pancreas, heart and small intestine.

By mid-afternoon the flow of energy again moves inward to support internal organs associated with restoring and maintaining the system. The purpose is to move fluids and heat, as well as to filter and cleanse. This time it affects the pericardium, triple burner (coordinates water functions and temperature), bladder, kidneys, circulation/sex and the liver.

Understanding that every organ has a repair/maintenance schedule to keep on a daily basis offers you the opportunity to learn how to treat yourself for improved health and well-being.

Chinese Body Clock

Overview of Activities and Emotions TCM Associates with each Hour of the Day

3am – 5 am: Lung Time

  • Early stirring gentle breathing
  • Grief
  • Sadness

The toxic waste from your lungs becomes loosened between 3 to 5 am, and when you awaken, this is why you cough sometimes. Your lungs are trying to expel the loosened waste. If you are coughing in the morning, this indicates that your diet and lifestyle needs tweaking.

Pay attention how you feel during this time as it is a great indicator if you have any problem in this area.

5am – 7am: Large Intestine Time

  • Rising and defecating
  • Guilt,
  • Stuck
  • Defensiveness

To get the day off to a good start, give yourself enough time early in the morning to honor the normal elimination function of the large intestine.

The morning is the most important time to drink plenty of water and the worst time to have caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic and takes water away from your colon to the kidneys and bladder for evacuation, but your body need water in the morning to keep up its repair and maintenance of the large intestine and colon. Drinking plenty of water at this time keeps you from getting constipated, gaining weight, looking and feeling older and improves your overall health.

7am – 9am: Stomach Time

  • Healthy eating
  • Disgust
  • Despair

Now the flow of energy moves to the stomach stimulating hunger. You are encouraged to eat a hearty, healthy breakfast and thereby producing good amounts of long-lasting energy. Eating larger meals of the day early delivers nourishment to the small intestine when it is strongest, which aids absorption and assimilation?

9am – 11am: Pancreas/Spleen Time

  • Thinking and working
  • Jealousy/Worry
  • Low Self-esteem

TCM considers the Spleen the most important digestive organ. So even a late breakfast will be digested easily. On the other hand this is also the time when allergies can show up the strongest because the Spleen is busy working with the Liver and your Immune system. A healthy spleen produces antibodies when there is an infection and constantly watches the blood for invaders.

11am – 1pm: Heart Time

  • Meeting talking and eating
  • Joy
  • Frightfully Sad

Don’t overtax your heart at this time. You may sometimes notice a rapid heartbeat, double beats and/or skipping beats during this time period. Research shows that seventy percent of heart attacks occur during this time frame.

Being full of joy, enthusiastic and restful makes the heart stronger, whereas the opposite emotions of sadness and gloom weaken the heart.

Doing anything heat inducing during this time is not good for optimal heart health as the heart has an aversion to heat according to the TCM.

1pm – 3pm: Small Intestine Time

  • Sorting and organizing
  • Insecurity,
  • Vulnerable / Gullible
  • Feelings of Abandonment

Have you noticed that between 1 to 3 pm you are more apt to have indigestion, pain and bloating?

3pm – 5pm: Bladder Time

  • Storing and reserving
  • Irritation
  • Timidity

At this time you may notice that you are tired and want a nap. Salty foods strengthen the Bladder, drinking a cup of savory miso soup would be beneficial at this time.

5pm – 7pm: Kidney Time

  • Driving and consolidating
  • Fear
  • Terror

The feeling of being tired and wanting a nap could continue into this time frame. On the other hand when the Kidneys are healthy and working properly, you will feel energetic at this time and not tired.

The kidneys are aligned with the adrenals, the glands that produce cortisol to help us spring out of bed in the morning. Early morning, from 5-7 am, is when kidney energy is weakest—a reason that people with depleted kidney energy often have trouble waking up to a new day.

7pm – 9pm: Pericardium, Circulation Sex Time

Associated with the brain, including the pituitary and hypothalamus and the reproductive organs

  • Socialising and flirting!
  • Unresponsive
  • Hurt/Extreme Joy
  • Inability to Express Emotions
  • Depleted

Between 7 to 9 pm do you have intense cravings for sweets or processed carbohydrates that turn to sugar immediately in the system? The reason is because the Kidneys regulate the Pancreas, and if you do consume sweets during that period, you may notice low back pain, which is a kidney symptom. The kidneys, bladder and pancreas are all parts of the same whole. If you need a nap early in the evening it is just your pancreas, as directed by your kidneys, putting you out so it can do its repairs.

9pm – 11pm: Triple Warmer Time

  • Associated with the Thyroid and Adrenals
  • Controls Metabolism
  • Energy Transfer and Regulates Temperature
  • Relaxing and Chilling
  • Hopelessness
  • Confusion, Paranoia

The Triple Warmer governs Blood Vessels and Arteries. From 9 to 11 pm the blood vessels go into repair mode. If you get headaches, feel abnormally tired or weak, this means that the blood vessels are in heavy repair.

11pm – 1am: Gall Bladder Time

  • Sleeping and regenerating
  • Bitterness
  • Resentment

1am – 3 am: Liver Time

  • Deep resting and dreaming
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Rage

The Liver and Gallbladder spring into action between 11 pm to 3 am. Do you ever have nights when you can’t sleep at this time? This means that waste is not being processed by your liver and it acts as an irritant to your body causing insomnia and frayed nerves. Your brain just won’t stop.

The Liver stores and cleanses the blood. If you have ever partied too much in the evening and then woken up in the wee hours of the morning feeling “off” and been unable to fall back to sleep? Chances are that you were tossing and turning between the hours of 1 – 3 am when your alcohol over-loaded liver was struggling to do its work.

The timing of the liver’s peak activity also speaks to consuming the last meal of the day as early as possible. The liver’s daily programming assumes an early dinner and bedtime. The “work shift” of the liver, then, reinforces the concept of making the last meal of the day a light one that is consumed on the early side.

When one organ is at its peak energy, the organ at the opposite side of the clock, 12 hours away, is at its lowest ebb. For example, between 1-3 am, the liver reaches its peak, doing its work to cleanse the blood, while the small intestine, the organ responsible for the absorption and assimilation of many key nutrients, is at its ebb.

What does this mean? Basically, it means that you are taxing the system when it has to deal with late night meals and snacking. The body is not programmed to accommodate the modern habit of late-night screen-based stimulation and the eating habits that go with it. When we eat late at night, food is not well absorbed by the small intestine and the liver has little opportunity to do its job of housekeeping.

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