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Waking at 3 am … Why Is That?

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For instance, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels and balancing hormones that stimulate appetite.

Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and weight gain.

Disturbances in sleep can follow a bizarre pattern. You may have noticed this phenomenon yourself when you wake up during the night at a particular time.

Now I am not speaking about an odd night here and there. Rather, I’m speaking specifically about waking up night after night. So much so, that the nights of sleeping through have now become a distant memory. The idea of going to bed may even be creating anxiety due to the frustration that comes with constant sleep disruption.

Each time you wake, you may look at the clock and find it’s always around the same time – say 3 am or between certain hours like 1-3 am?

“So why is that?”, I hear you ask.

It is a valid question and one that I answer regularly in my practice. Put simply, it all comes down to our stressful lifestyle.

Let me explain further.

During times of stress, the adrenal glands (that sit on top of your kidneys) release adrenaline. Back in the caveman days, this was great – stress tended to be primarily physical and it helped people outrun tigers and find food.

Today, stress is primarily psychological, but the adrenaline release still occurs.

This adrenaline release increases heart rate, dilates pupils, increases breathing rate, and decreases the focus on digestion.

All this means unmanaged stress and excessive use of adrenaline during the day.

To understand the next stage we need to turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to solve this baffling and common problem.

Take a look at the Chinese Medicine ‘24 Hour Meridian Clock’ below. It highlights the 12 major meridians or flow of energy-substance which sustains life (known as Qi or Chi).


All meridians are constantly flowing with energy from our environment and penetrating our bodies through our skin. These portals on the skin are what acupuncture and acupressure use. Each has a two hour period where they are the primary meridian.

Each meridian is linked to particular parts of the body, mechanisms of the body, other meridians, thoughts and emotions, colour, sound, seasons and other spiritual aspects. They’re also partnered together as Yin (receiving energy) and Yang (expressing energy) of an element – Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire.

Think of it like electrical circuits – when the energy of a meridian is not flowing well due to a block (like stress), you’ll find that you’ll experience a sign or symptom from the meridian(s) involved. This block will also cause an imbalance in the flows between meridians.

The Human Body Energy Clock explains this a little further below.

If you’re waking between 1 am and 3 am then you would look at the information about the Liver meridian.

Waking at 3 am indicates unmanaged stress due to poor liver regeneration. It’s the time when your liver nourishes itself, and it needs glycogen to do so. One of the things adrenaline does is it causes cells to use glycogen, so if supply is low because you’ve had a higher adrenaline release (due to stress), the liver cannot regenerate.

The end result? Your body releases more adrenaline in response to the liver not having adequate glycogen – and you’re wide awake at 3 am – just like getting a huge dose of coffee in the middle of the night.

So when you’re waking up in the night at the same time or becoming exhausted with ‘4 o’clock-itis’ in the afternoon, take a look at the meridian at play and what may be happening with you. Here’s a list of the basic emotions of each element related to the meridians.

  • Earth – Empathy, sympathy, balanced giving and receiving
  • Metal – Grief and loss
  • Water – Fear and anxiety
  • Wood – Anger, frustration, and resentment
  • Fire – Love, hate, and joy

So it’s time for some self-reflection.

Your body is trying to tell you something by waking you up at the same time.

If your problem time is the Liver meridian with the Wood element  – ask yourself, “What am I angry or frustrated with?” Or think of the Liver organ and apply this to your life, “What is toxic in my life that I need to get rid of?”

Perhaps you have symptoms that your digestive system is not working so well? Bloating, wind, cramps, spasms, or irregular bowel motions. This will reinforce the need to love your liver a little more and to reduce undue stress in your life.

Liver congestion leads to inflammation within the body which affects all organs and is the precursor of most disease states.

Liver health is paramount to your overall health – but it is especially important for your restful night sleep.

For anyone struggling with sleep issues or in need of some general healing, reach out to me for a consultation.

CLICK HERE to book a consult online.

**If you’ve got this far – thank you for reading and I look forward to bringing you more information in the future.

Now, enjoy some much needed relaxation music to help you sleep well…