Not sleeping: What waking up at night tells you about your health

We all know what it's like — tomorrow's a big day so we head to bed early to make sure we get some quality shut-eye before going to work. But the next thing we know, it's 2:00 a.m. and our body has apparently woken us up for no reason, and any chance of falling asleep again is fast disappearing. It's still dark outside, and the alarm clock is ticking the seconds away, taunting us with all those remaining hours we could be asleep and dreaming. And it's not like it's the first time, the same thing happened last night, and the night before and the night before that...

This kind of scenario is probably all too familiar to many of us, but it certainly can't be healthy. If you're affected by insomnia you may very well feel tired and cranky because, as we well know, getting sufficient sleep is important for good health and general well-being. In fact, we spend one third of our lives asleep, but this is not wasted time. On the contrary, our bodies need regular and deep sleep to recuperate and actually use the time to repair tissue and release hormones for things like muscle growth. In addition, healthy sleep slows down the aging process. It is during the dream phase (also referred to as REM phase), that mental recovery takes place.

sleeping woman pin

Everyone has an internal clock that regulates when we wake and when we sleep. The amount of sleep and times of sleep vary from person to person and also change with age, with most people needing less sleep as they grow older. But something we are all aware of as human beings is the phenomenon of waking at the same time every night. But why does this happen? Why do our bodies decide to wake up at the same time every night and in doing so, interrupt a very important recovery phase?  Various theories suggest that waking up at the same time each night indicates an issue with a body part or the emotions associated with it. The ancient Chinese practice of feng shui teaches that the body seeks to inform the head about a particular organ or a state of mind when it regularly rouses it at certain times. Your inner clock can be an important guide for you, not only at night but during the day as well. So, if you find yourself waking up at the same time each night, there are theories that your body is signaling you about a specific organ. Read on to find out what your late-night waking might mean:

When falling asleep

If you have difficulty falling asleep in the evening, or even just relaxing, high adrenaline levels in your blood are usually to blame. Adrenaline is the human fight-or-flight hormone. If you find yourself having problems falling asleep, it could mean that something needs to be confronted. So, either you are concerned about a decision needing to be made or you are being faced with something burdensome.

Between 11pm and 1am

Your gall bladder produces bitter biliary fluid, which is needed for digestion and absorption. This fluid is very important for the body but if you're waking up during this time, it means something is irritating your gall bladder. Traditional Chinese medicine associates the gall bladder with anxiety and resentment, so this may mean that something is aggravating you and making you feel anxious.

gall bladder pin

Between 1am and 3am

It is during these early hours of the morning that our bodies cleanse themselves of the toxins that have been absorbed during the day. It does this by removing waste materials from the blood and other tissues. The most important organ in this detoxing process is the liver. The physical cause of waking regularly during this timeframe can be, for example, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption. It helps to drink a lot of water and to generally eat healthily. However, your body may just as easily be telling you that you are backed up with negative emotional baggage. In such a case, it is helpful to deal with problems head-on, to flush out such emotions and relinquish any pent-up feelings.

Between 3am and 5am

During this time, blood and oxygen are pumped into the muscles, replenishing cells with vital oxygen. The lungs are the driving force in this process. Chinese medicine also links the lungs to grief and feelings of loss and sadness. So, if you wake up between these hours, you may not be getting the emotional replenishment and support you need from your peers or loved ones.

lungs pin

Between 5am and 7am

Like the liver, the large intestine is a cleansing organ and is the last stop for any unwanted food products. If you wake up around this time needing to go to the bathroom, it could mean something is going on with your colon. On a psychological level it could also mean that you have not yet concluded a particular matter and you are hanging on to something that you should really let go of.

Between 7am and 11am

The stomach and the spleen send signals when we are awake and while we are sleeping to draw attention to some kind of discomfort. A certain drop in energy, feelings of anxiety or any other kind of discomfort during the day can also be attributed to certain organs and their associated emotions. On the other hand, it could just be a natural signal about nourishment, like telling us it's time for a good breakfast.

Between 11am and 3pm

According to Chinese tradition, midday to early afternoon is marked by the heart and the small intestine, which both deal with communication and relationships. If you feel uncomfortable during this time, it might help to have a nutritious snack or a friendly chat with a person. Both will do a good job of lifting your spirits.

heart pin

Between 3pm and 7pm

Towards late afternoon or evening, we draw a summary of the day's events. Feeling exhausted at this stage means that you are not quite content with yourself and your actions and you need to rethink what you've been doing and eating. The bladder and kidneys represent our personal resources, which should always be replenished and preserved.

If you wake again and again in the middle of the night and realize that it is happening all too frequently and always at the same time, you should study your way of life over the last few days. Going on diets, particular habits as well as relationships and stress can have a tremendous impact on your inner clock and well-being. Just take some time out to consider what may be contributing to the issue and work to resolve it. Because it is only once you have really tuned into your body that you can begin to help it and ultimately allow it to sleep well again.


This website is neither intended nor suitable to replace, complete or refute professional advice, examinations, treatments, diagnoses, etc. by doctors, pharmacists, psychotherapists, medical practitioners and / or any other medical professional.


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