There's A Reason You Feel Most Creative In The Middle Of The Night — An Acupuncturist Explains

mbg Associate Editor By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and health. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Woman in bed

If you've ever been up late or can't sleep, you might've experienced a wave of emotion around 1 to 3 a.m. Perhaps you get a spurt of creativity, and you frequently keep a notepad at your bedside to jot down your best ideas. Or maybe you face waves of anger—replaying a confrontational conversation over and over in your head. Or maybe you just get a second wind around this time.

Well, according to nationally board-certified acupuncturist, Paige Bourassa, DACM, L.Ac., RHN, your liver function might be to blame. "In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), your liver function—not your Western liver—can kick up, and you'll start to get that second wind," she reveals on the mindbodygreen podcast. Here's what she means.

A quick briefer on the "Chinese body clock." 

"In Chinese medicine, you have a clock where every two hours, there's a different organ system that kind of takes over," says Bourassa. Commonly dubbed the "Chinese body clock," or "Chinese organ clock" each two-hour interval signals where chi moves through each of your body's organ systems. At certain timestamps, it's believed that each organ reaches its peak energy. For example, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., your gallbladder is hard at work, breaking down waste. Between 5 and 7 a.m., your large intestine is on call—and so on. 

So if you frequently wake up (or find it difficult to fall asleep) at any of these times, your corresponding organ systems may be imbalanced, according to TCM.


So what if you wake up around 1 a.m. each night?

Back to the scenario we mentioned above: If you experience a wave of emotion (so intense, say, it wakes you up), "That's your false energy, when your liver is kicking up," Bourassa notes. In TCM, your liver is the organ responsible for a smooth flow of emotions (in addition to its basic functions), so when it's imbalanced, you may experience an overwhelming sense of energy. If it's always at the same hour each and every night, a la the Chinese body clock, it's an even bigger clue. 

To get your liver function back on track, there are a number of routes to follow: In TCM, you can try food, manual, or movement therapies, as well as acupuncture to optimize balanced, long-term health. Bourassa also touts the importance of deep, restful sleep: "You're supposed to be having optimal REM sleep in your 'liver time,'" she notes. Research has even associated an increased "liver fire" with insomnia. So if your liver function is keeping you awake, "You're not getting a chance to fall asleep and really restore that yin." That's why focusing on good, quality sleep is key (here's how to approach sleep from a TCM perspective and catch more Zzz's). 

The takeaway. 

The thing is, there's limited scientific evidence to link liver function to this two-hour interval; however, many TCM practitioners and experts believe waking up at 1 a.m., full of emotion, signals an imbalance in this area. If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep at this time, it may be worth it to check the Chinese body clock.

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