Understanding the Chinese Medicine Clock

Oct 22, 2019

Having trouble falling or staying asleep? Nodding off after lunch?  Chinese medicine holds the answers to patterns in our sleep, mood, and health through the notion of an organ clock.

A quick primer on Qi (pronounced “chee”)
A blog post on The Legacy of Taste traces all Chinese wellness therapies to the notion of qi, or the vital energy that flows within our bodies and promotes internal balance. Your qi is what connects your body’s major organs and bodily functions, which is why practitioners often talk about the dangers of one’s qi being unbalanced.

How the organ clock works
Chinese medicine’s notion of the body clock isn’t just knowing when to wake up and go to bed. Each organ in our body has a two-hour window in which the qi is most active. For example, your heart is most active from 11 AM to 1 PM, making it the ideal time to relax with friends and engage in an activity that brings you joy. 

Waking up around 3am? You may need to physically detox from food or booze or may be holding onto unresolved anger and frustration.

Photo cred: www.safflowerclinic.com

The secret to better sleep


The organ clock also has a huge impact on your physical health — specifically sleeping patterns. Since the gallbladder and liver start to regulate your qi at around 11pm, you should aim to be fast asleep by this time. 

Medical News Today lists the negative effects of being sleep deprived, from mood swings to greater chances of respiratory diseases. For those with sleeping issues, the organ clock may also have an answer. If you’re someone who wakes up at the hours of 1-3 in the morning, this is a signal that your liver might be unwell and that you might need a detox from alcohol or other stressors. Waking up at 3-5 in the morning reflects an imbalance in your lungs, signaling either respiratory problems or more common, an emotional disturbance that has to do with needing to let go of something.

Understanding how the Chinese medicine organ clock works is really fascinating. You can use it to check in on yourself and note where you could use more support. Come in for acupuncture to learn more about how to incorporate it into your life!

See below for the times that correspond to each organ and what your body/mind/spirit is processing during those times.

1AM – 3AM:
LIVER | Deep sleep, detox blood, rest and recovery, planning, frustration and anger.

3AM – 5AM
LUNGS | Deep sleep, dreams and memory, detox lungs, letting go, grief.

5AM – 7AM
LARGE INTESTINE | Wake up, release bowels, clear mind, meditate.

7AM – 9AM
STOMACH | Breakfast, good time to focus/study, walk.

9AM – 11AM
SPLEEN | Clear thinking, spleen converts food to Qi, good time for self-love.

11AM – 1PM
HEART | Blood circulation, highest energy, eat lunch, socialize.

1PM – 3PM
SMALL INTESTINE | Sort food and absorb nutrients, lower energy, nap time.

3PM – 5PM
BLADDER | Energy restored, liquid waste released, work and study.

5PM – 7PM
THE KIDNEY | Store nutrients, build bone marrow, eat dinner.

7PM – 9PM
THE PERICARDIUM | Protection, reading for fun, sex, more self love.

9PM – 11PM
TRIPLE BURNER | Endocrine and metabolic balancing, getting sleep.

11PM – 1AM
GALL BLADDER | Sleep, release bile, cellular repair, build blood cells.

By Mary Francine.

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