The Chinese body clock relates back to the concept of qi. Qi is the energy that runs through our body and is constantly changing. Out of the 24 hours in a day, qi stays in each specific organ for roughly 2 hours. When you are resting or sleeping, qi goes inward to heal and restore the body. Research also lends some support to this theory – we are born with an internal biological clock that regulates everything from mood, sleep, diet to performance.
By understanding the Chinese body clock, you can use this information to optimize the bodily functions of each organ to improve your quality of life. For example, your stomach has the highest qi levels between 7 am to 9 am. You should aim to have your first meal at this time to allow your body to absorb the nutrients better and prevent gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion, heartburn, constipation and so on.
Let’s take a look at the 2-hour time intervals for each organ in the body.
1 am – 3 am: Liver
While we are deep asleep, the liver detoxifies the blood and regulates our hormone levels. If you drink excessively before going to bed, this affects the cleansing function of the liver and you may wake up the next day with a hangover. To avoid this, moderate your alcohol intake and exercise regularly. Frequent consumption of painkillers also contributes to liver toxicity, hence you should strive to use natural home remedies for aches and pains that are easier to manage.
3 am – 5 am: LungsThe lungs govern the body’s immune system and the distribution of oxygen to the blood. Our lungs are working at peak optimal levels at this time. It is believed that this is the best time to exercise.
5 am – 7 am: Large intestine
Once we wake up, the large intestine kicks into action and begins the process of waste elimination. This is why we often have strong bowel movements in the morning. If you are experiencing constipation, IBS or diarrhoea problems, it is recommended to drink more water and eat plenty of fibre from fruits and vegetables.
7 am – 9 am: Stomach
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for a good reason! The stomach qi energies are high at this time, and skipping breakfast can upset the balance of this organ and give rise to problems with digestion and immunity. A warm, nutritious breakfast is the way to go. Cold foods such as smoothie bowls should be avoided as the cold temperatures may cause the stomach energies to contract and shut down.
9 am – 11 am: Spleen
The spleen is linked closely with the stomach. The spleen receives food before releasing enzymes to break down food. This is then converted into qi and energy for the body. Hence, this is the ideal time for getting work done, as you are able to use your mental energies efficiently and concentrate better.
11 am-1 pm: Heart
The heart rules blood circulation and emotions, hence when this organ is overworked, you may easily feel stressed. Coming off the high energy transmuted by the spleen, you should avoid taxing the body too much and have a light lunch. This is also a great time for brainstorming over lunch, socializing and indulging in activities that bring you happiness.
1 pm – 3 pm: Small intestine
As qi in the small intestine is expanding to its peak level at this time, it is able to process and absorb nutrients from the food we consume and convert it into energy. This is also the period where the body starts to wind down in preparation for the second half of the day. Take a short power nap during this time to recharge your energies.
3 pm – 5 pm: Bladder
Around this time, most people feel the all too familiar afternoon slump as their energy levels go down. Instead of reaching for a sugary treat, try munching on a savoury snack. The salt will do wonders for your bladder! This is also the period whereby the bladder moves metabolic waste into the kidney for filtration. Drinking plenty of water can help this detoxification process along.
5 pm – 7 pm: Kidney
The kidney is responsible for filtering the blood of impurities and keeping hormones in check. If you feel extremely tired during this time of the day, you may suffer from adrenal fatigue. Other symptoms include low libido, back pain and hormonal problems. You should take this time to do gentle exercises and reschedule high-intensity exercises to the morning.
7 pm – 9 pm: Pericardium
The pericardium is a thin, fibrous sac that houses the heart and its major blood vessels. One of its key function is to insulate and protect the heart. Likewise, the pericardium guards the heart against external stressors and emotional mood swings. When this organ is unbalanced, you may be easily stressed, paranoid and fearful of intimacy.
A good way to restore balance back to the pericardium is to slow down your pace and unwind from the day by meditating, reading, soaking in a hot bath. This is a good time for indulging in self-care rituals as it helps you reconnect with your own true self.
9 pm – 11 pm: Triple Burner
Triple burner refers to the entire organ system that regulates the body’s metabolism. The three-burner organs are the Upper Burner (heart, pericardium and lungs), Middle Burner (stomach, spleen, gall bladder) and the Lower Burner (kidney, bladder, small and large intestine and the liver). It is believed that the body generates the largest amount of heat during this period. The function of the Tripler Burner is to distribute qi energy and fluids to the body. When it becomes unbalanced, qi becomes blocked and does not flow smoothly. It may manifest physically as swollen lymph nodes, slow metabolism, fatigue and chronic inflammation. Sleeping early and reducing stress during this period is crucial to allow the triple burner organs to work efficiently.
11 pm – 1 am: Gall bladder
The gall bladder governs the repair and rebuilding of new cells in the body. It also excretes bile for the digestion of food consumed throughout the day. If you have eaten a heavy meal before sleeping, the gall bladder may be working extra hard to digest the food. Eating a small dinner that is high in good fats will make digestion easier and help you get a good night’s sleep.
If you find yourself waking up at the same time every night, this could be a sign that your organs are working too hard and are out of balance. On the other hand, if you have the habit of sleeping late then this can also wreak havoc with the organ’s bodily function.
With that in mind, give yourself time to honour your body and work with your body, not against it!