Circadian Rhythms and the Chinese Medicine Body Clock (2/2)
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a comprehensive and thorough understanding of biological rhythm. Biological rhythm is an inherent connotation of “harmony between human and nature”, one of the thoughts in TCM. TCM discusses emphatically circadian rhythm, syzygial rhythm and seasonal rhythm, and particularly circadian and seasonal rhythms.
TCM is distinguished for its holistic viewpoint on biological rhythms. Based on theories in TCM, biological rhythm in essence is a continuous variation of the human body state synchronized with natural rhythms. The understandings of biological rhythm in TCM can be applied to etiology, health care, disease control and treatment. 
What is the Chinese Body Clock?
In Chinese Medicine theory, our Qi (vital energy) travels through the body’s internal organ system in a cyclic ebb and flow. Peaking every two hours, the vital energy flows from a Yin organ to the paired Yang organ and on again to the following yin organ, maintaining harmony with the energetic shifts in our external environment. The body clock encourages us to closely examine what we’re doing throughout the hours of the day, and to match our actions to the most suitable energetic times. It’s all about optimization, balance, rest, and recovery. Being mindful of how we eat, work, exercise and sleep in accordance with the Chinese Body Clock can help us get the most out of our day. [Learn more about the Circadian Rhythms in modern science.] [Read more: Breakfast is indeed important- said both TCM and modern scientific research]
Let’s explore the Ancient Chinese Body Clock
3am – 5am Lung (Yin- Hand Tai Yin)- Sleep and Regroup
System functions: Respiration and the use of Qi, stamina, immunity, regulates the water channel and overseeing all the vessels
Connections: Lungs, nose and respiratory track, skin
Emotions and congnition: Sadness and Greif, Po
What to do at this time: Stay asleep, deep sleep. If you have problem of early waking, seek help and treatment early.
5am – 7am Large Intestine (Yang- Hand Yang Ming)- Wake Up
System functions: Absorbs nutrients and fluids, excretes waste and toxins from the body, interconnect with the Lung system thus assisting the Lungs’ functions
Connections: Lower digestive track, Lungs systems
What to do at this time: Get out of bed, have sunlight, gentle exercise, drink a small amount of warm water, preferably defecate (but some people do this after breakfast, and it is ok)
What NOT to do at this time: Drink lemonade or any detox cleansing drinks, eat or drink anything cold or raw. Both Large Intestines and Stomach are the Yang Ming meridians which means “ the shining of Yang energy”. Both Large Intestines and Stomach prefer active movement. Also, the sunlight is at the gradual uprising stage, we should work in synchronization with the daylight by gently activating the system, not cooling it down or over-aggressively cleansing it.
7am – 9am Stomach (Yang- Foot Yang Ming)- Breakfast
System functions: Acceptance and digestion of food, together with the Spleen they transforms the vital energy and initiate the metabolism of the whole body. It is the source of acquired Qi, the living Qi.
Connections: Upper digestive track, Spleen system, intersection with the intestines and Lungs
What to do at this time: Eat a warm and moisturizing breakfast
9am – 11am Spleen (Yin- Foot Tai Yin)- Productivity
System functions: Digestion and transformation of body tissues, mainly muscles; delivers the accuiqed Qi (gathered from the Stomach); regulate and coordinate the Xue (Blood- failure of spleen could lead to bleeding disorder or anemia), together with the Kidney (the congential material), it is an essential part of making blood; Governs and initate thougts (interllactual power).
Connections: The whole digestive track, mucles, lips, month; internal connection with the Lungs (both are Tai Yin)
Emotions and congnition: Thinking or worrying, Yi
What to do at this time: Make a daily plan, start working or studying, brainstorming
11am – 1pm Heart (Yin- Hand Shao Yin)- Lunch
System functions: The mastermind- in physical term the heart keeps the heart beating thus blood carries both nutrients and waste are moving to the places they need to go; in the mental term, it governors the Mind/Spirit (Shen).
Connections: Heart and blood vessels, tongue, small intestines
Emotions and congnition: Cognition, Joy, Shen
What to do at this time: Take a short break, followed by the lunch.
1pm – 3pm Small Intestine (Yang- Hand Tai Yang)- Productivity
System functions: Separates the clean from the dirty; pure from the impure. It then sends energy, nutrients and fluids to the Heart and Sanjiao (an energy network). The Small Intestine and Heart are a Yin / Yang pair and support each other.
Connections: Mid-digestive track, Heart and Brain
What to do at this time: Allow another short break for digestion then start the second half of the working day. It is good to do tasks which requires clarity of thought and making decisions, judgment and coordination.
3pm – 5pm Bladder (Yang- Foot Tai Yang) - Productivity and Hydration
System functions: The longest meridian of the body that connects all the vital systems. It also runs on the external side of the body which is an important area for immunity. It is an important part of the water metabolism together with the Lungs, Kidneys and SanJiao.
Connections: Water channels, Kidney system, the back and superficial level of the body
What to do at this time: Strong physical activity. Intensive execution of work. A small break with moisturizing food or drink.
5pm – 7pm Kidney (Yin- Foot Shao Yin)- Exercise and Dinner
System functions: The production of bone marrow (that connects to the brain) ; filtering and cleaning the blood and fluids in your body; storage of congential and the purest energy (Jing); Reproduction; Determination
Connections: Kidneys, adrenal glands, urinary bladder, water channels, bones and marrow (congential energy), hair, the genitals
Emotions and congnition: Fear, Zhi
What to do at this time: Revision and memorization; Physical training; connect with family; eat a small and balanced dinner
7pm-9pm Pericardium (Yin- Hand Jue Yin)- Family and Relaxation Time
System functions: The Pericardium is the Heart Protector. It has strong links with the Heart. By allowing the time and space for the Pericardium to run smoothly, it aids the Heart-Kidney coordination thus a smooth transition from the daytime activation to the nighttime resting and restoration.
What to do at this time: Relaxation and pleasure.
9pm – 11pm San Jiao (Yang- Hand Shao Yang)- Wind Down
System functions: It is a network of water and energy channels that connects and harmonize all other systems’s circulation and functions.
What to do at this time: Self care rountine, breathing exercises, meditation, bathing and going to bed. AVOID stimulations from intensive thinking and screen time.
11pm – 1am Gallbladder (Yang- Foot Shao Yang)- Fall Asleep and Reset
System functions: The second longest meridian in the body. 11pm in the Chinese clock is the beginning of the day. It represents a restart and new cycle. Gallbladder governs decision making, initiates the start of energy release and has a close relationship with its paired Yin organ the Liver.
What to do at this time: Stay in bed and sleep.
1am – 3am Liver (Yin- Foot Jue Yin)- Sleep and Regeneration
System functions: The last stop of the whole cycle and the deepest of the Yin. Liver stores blood (especially when we sleep) and ensure Qi flows smoothly and in the right direction. Liver has a close relationship with the Kidney system and it assists the regeneration of the body by the Kidney. In the daytime, Liver is the energetic engine of the body and mind with the use of ministerial fire. Our Liver energy helps us to react to stress and get things done. The Liver is very sensitive to excessive stress, lack of sleep and fiery stimulation which could lead to emotional disturbances, joint pain, chronic inflammation, menstural problems and digestive issues related to stress.
Connections: Liver, gallbladder, eye, tendons and soft tissues; internal connection with the digestive system
Emotions and congnition: Anger, Hun
What to do at this time: Stay asleep, in order to have a deep sleep, the daytime routine and exercise is the most crucial to the Liver restoration at night.
Nature has its own rhythm as does the human body. When the human body synchronizes its rhythm with that of nature we’re in our best state of health. By planning and organizing your day, it is possible and easy to maintain health and optimaize efficiency of work and study, while keeping your family close and self-cared.