You're a pretty healthy person. You're eating right, you dodge coffee in the afternoons and evenings, you don't partake in much sugar, and you're exercising most days. In theory, you should be sleeping well. But gosh darn it, that hot bod of yours is waking you up EVERY NIGHT at the SAME BLINKING TIME. Why?!
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners would recommend you take a look at the Chinese meridian clock.
There are fourteen major meridians (or energy flow channels) in TCM, with twelve of these placed neatly around a 24-hour clock. Each of these twelve meridians have a two-hour period in which they are the primary meridian, and each represents a particular body part, emotion, and element - earth, water, metal, wood and fire.
When the energy of a specific meridian is blocked - for either a physical or emotional reason, or, heck, even both - signs or symptoms will appear throughout. And, using this knowledge, you can use the meridian clock to help narrow down which of your meridians is crying out for help. And why.
T H E M E R I D I A N C L O C K
1 1 p m to 1 a m : the G a l l B l a d d e r
Our gall bladder is responsible for both storing and excreting bile, and, emotionally, for our decision making and self-esteem. Difficulty making good decisions or digesting fats, and poor self-esteem, will result from depleting the energy stores of our gall bladder - so it's important to make sure you're tucked in by 11pm at night!
1 a m to 3 a m : the L i v e r
In TCM, the liver is responsible for storing blood for menstruation, and for getting us through the day. Emotionally, the liver is linked to issues with anger and resentment. If you're waking during the liver hours, consider any anger you may be repressing, and let that shit go! On a more physical level, irregular periods, anemia, headaches and chronic fatigue are all symptoms of liver imbalance.
3 a m to 5 a m : the L u n g
Obviously our lungs are responsible for respiration, but in TCM, our lungs are also responsible for moving qi (or energy) throughout the body and for maintaining immunity. The lungs are emotionally attached to feelings of grief and sorrow. When inbalanced, symptoms for the lung appear as coughs, wheezing, asthma, and decreased immunity.
5 a m to 7 a m : the L a r g e I n t e s t i n e
In TCM, our large intestine represents 'letting go' - not only physically, but on an emotional level too. The hours between 5am and 7am are hence absolutely optimal for bowel movements. If you're feeling a little stuck emotionally, or if you're suffering from constipation, it might be time for some intestinal TLC.
7 a m to 9 a m : the S t o m a c h
These hours are perfect for a healthy breakfast. As our stomach's function is in digesting and breaking down what we eat, why not align our breakfast time with the hours our tummy's working at its best? Bad breath, stomach ulcers and acid reflux are all issues which may point to some digestive disturbance.
9 a m to 1 1 a m : the S p l e e n
The spleen is responsible for extracting nutrients from the food we eat, turning them into energy, and sending that energy through our bods to all of the other important bits. If you're suffering from loose stools, bloating up after a meal, craving sweets 24/7, or struggling with fatigue, this could represent spleen imbalance. Have a nice warming cup of tea during these hours, or a light snack including spleen-supporting cinnamon, dates or lentils.
1 1 a m to 1 p m : the H e a r t
The heart is really not a fan of heat of any kind - physical or emotional - so avoid caffeine, strenuous exercise, and as much stress as possible during these hours to keep your blood pressure from raising too high. Instead, relax and enjoy your lunch (and heck, take a nap if you can). This will prevent shortness of breath, palpitations, and insomnia.
1 p m to 3 p m : the S m a l l I n t e s t i n e
Ever feel dehydrated around now? That will be your small intestine, whose role is to separate fluids in the body and direct them to the bladder or large intestine for excretion. If you've not had enough water during the day, you're more likely to feel dehydrated right about now (and experience all of dehydration's associated joys...yay...not).
3 p m to 5 p m : the B l a d d e r
You'll be feeling a dip in energy levels right about now, especially if you're not well hydrated enough and your bladder's taking a beating as a result. You may also experience discomfort or burning when peeing, or a UTI, if your bladder's not in balance. The bladder, as you'd know babe, is responsible for storing and secreting urine; but you may not know that its nourished by foods of the salty variety. So reach for a veggie broth or miso during these hours for some bladder restoration.
5 p m to 7 p m : the K i d n e y
Our kidneys are vital in healthy reproduction, growth and development. Keep your kidney 'essence' strong, and problems like low back pain, greying hair or sexual difficulty at bay, with a smallish hearty meal and a healthy dose of love making during these hours ;)
7 p m to 9 p m : the P e r i c a r d i u m
Known as an accessory organ, the pericardium holds our heart. Ease into sleep and support your heart-holder gently with some meditation, reading, stretching or restorative yoga, and cuddling.
9 p m to 1 1 p m : the S a n J i a o
The San Jiao, or 'triple burner', is the only meridian in Chinese medicine that doesn't have a western counterpart, so it's a little hard to describe... But, important for you to know is this: these hours are when you should be hitting the hay for optimal health - earlier in the winter, and a little later in summer.
S O W H A T ?
Think of electrical circuits: if there's a block somewhere along the line, the proverbial hits the fan. It's the same with the meridians - energy channels - in our body. If there's a block (some stress of some kind, physical or emotional) preventing healthy flow, you're going to know about it. You'll be experiencing some kind of sign or symptom in that meridian.
So, self reflection is key. Waking up at the same gosh darn hours of the way-too-early morning? Always crashing at 3pm? Consider the meridian at play, what might be happening with you, and then go from there. Stop and listen.
References: Naturopathic by Nature, Holistic by Nature.