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On a daily basis, our bodies undergo internal processes that react to light and dark, hot and cold, and other natural yin-yang polarities. Considering the pressure we put on our bodies, be it through diet, lack of movement, and stress, we often disrupt these natural patterns and, in effect, our health. Disrupting this circadian clock is said to lead to poor sleep, insomnia, depression, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, and alcohol abuse, among other condtions. Learn how the body clock works and how you can adapt it to your lifestyle.

Circadian rhythms describe the cycle humans, plants, and animals experience over two 12-hour intervals – one that moves inward for restoration, especially during sleep, and the other that moves outward towards proper function of organs. Everyone has a circadian rhythm, but the length of cycles varies from one person to the next based on trained habits or genetic predisposition, which explains why some people are “night owls” or “morning people”. Chinese medicine highly values the idiosyncrasies of the circadian clock and has been observing them within the environment for thousands of years, relating them to states of activity and rest, or yin and yang.

The following chart lists the body’s meridians and their periods of strongest activity:

  • 1-3 am: Liver
  • 3-5 am: Lung
  • 5-7 am: Large Intestine
  • 7-9 am: Stomach
  • 9-11 am: Spleen
  • 11 am-1 pm: Heart
  • 1-3 pm: Small Intestine
  • 3-5 pm: Urinary Bladder
  • 5-7 pm: Kidney
  • 7-9 pm: Pericardium
  • 9-11 pm: Triple Heater
  • 11 pm-1 am: Gall Bladder

This chart can be usual for your everyday life by outlining when you should focus on certain activities. For example, in Chinese medicine the kidney is considered the body’s most important reservoir of essential energy, which make 5-7 pm an ideal time in the day to work out, when energy levels are at their highest. These time spans are associated not only with activities but also emotions. The pericardium, which is a sac that holds the heart and the roots of the great vessels, is naturally linked to circulation and feelings of sexuality, extreme joy, socializing and flirting, hurt, and inability to express emotions. Understanding your body’s own innate rituals can help you achieve a more proper state of balance that honors its unique activity. 

Image: Aaron Geller