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a woman looks forlornly at a clock with hands at 4:45 am

Many of us wake up at the same time every night and then struggle to fall back asleep. It’s almost like an internal alarm clock is set to rouse us — against our wishes.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) concept called the organ clock (featured below) may help explain this phenomenon and what to do about it.

Vital energy, or chi, moves through your body in a 24-hour cycle, explains Emily Bartha, LAc, of Turning Pointe Acupuncture in Portland, Ore. Every two hours, it peaks within an organ; if that organ is experiencing disharmony, it may affect your emotions and your sleep.

Acupuncture is a great way to balance the chi within your body to improve sleep and energy and balance emotions,” says Bartha. “Yoga, meditation, physical activity, a healthy diet, and adhering to a consistent bedtime may also help.”

10–11 p.m.

Aim to go to bed by 10:30, advises Bartha, because 11 is when your liver and gallbladder start to regulate chi, process emotions, balance hormones, and detoxify your body.

11 p.m.–1 a.m.

If you’re waking at this time, your gallbladder may need a helping hand. Emotionally, you may be feeling resentment or bitterness.

Try: Ensuring the fats you’re eating are healthy ones — or reduce your fat intake overall. Avoid alcohol. Eat a light dinner and skip after-dinner snacks.

1–3 a.m.

Your liver may need a detox from alcohol or other stressors. Stress or anger may also be affecting you emotionally.

Try: A whole-foods cleanse. Drink alcohol in moderation. Replace coffee with green tea for a week or more. Seek to deal with anger and frustration. Exercise regularly.

3–5 a.m.

Your lungs are trying to tell you something: They may be working too hard or fighting off a virus or allergies. Sadness or grief may be pronounced.

Try: Deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga to boost your lungs and help release sad feelings or grief.

5–7 a.m.

Your large intestines may be seeking help. You might be feeling stagnant in your life, stuck in a job or a relationship.

Try: Staying hydrated and eating plenty of fiber. Seek to release negative emotions that are holding you back.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Organ Clock

Traditional Chinese Medicine organ clock

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