Infinity Spine Center Blog

How You Can Use Ancient Medical Wisdom to Sleep Through the Night

Have you ever woken at 1 a.m. and your back felt as hot as molten lava exploding from the Kilauea volcano?

Or you felt your heart racing at 3 a.m. in the morning? What’s this ish–waking with your heart racing in the middle of the night?

Evolving wisdom from 2500+-years ago from our Eastern friends may offer some insight into your late night sleepless challenges.

Ancient Eastern Medicine, Sleep, and Your Liver

Our Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) friends had a different way of thinking about health 2500 years ago that’s starkly different from present western medicine approach. This ancient way of thinking is different from all the western dudes in white lab coats that need a meta-analysis of all relevant randomized controlled trials to find treatments (usually drugs) for liver disease and sleep challenges.

In TCM, something called the Chinese body clock may give you deeper insights into why you’re waking at the same time every night.
Chinese body clock. Between 1-3 a.m your liver is in power cleansing mode.

Love on your liver!

The Chinese body clock works on the premise that energy moves through the body at different times of the day. During these 2 hour time periods, energy moves from one body system to another to restore and strengthen your body. This cycle takes 24 hours and each system has two hours of energy charge time. Your liver’s time to recharge is between 1-3 a.m.
Flow of energy

If you have a blockage that prevents the flow of energy from organ to organ or system to system, that blockage could wake you up. The blockage could be in the form of physical, emotional, or mental stress. These types of stresses can create blockages. Developing an awareness of the cause and addressing it will usually have an immediate impact on your mojo.

The liver meridian. Any blockage of energy to/from the liver along its channel can have an effect on the liver or the parts of the body along the liver pathway.
“Blockage of energy… Whatchu talkin bout, Cornerman? You talkin that ish again!”
Example: if you have big toe, foot, or shin issues, past or present, energy flowing to/from your foot to/from liver may be decreased causing liver challenges or big toe, foot, shin issues. Read parts of this book by a western MD on this topic.
TCM: waking up between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is repairing and recovering between 1-3 a.m.

If you crushed an entire Lou Malnati’s pizza and a couple brownie boats covered in ice cream at 6 p.m. there’s a good chance you’re waking up in the middle of the night. Possibly lying in a puddle of your sweat. Or it could feel your spine is on fire.

Cranking up your liver by eating carbs and protein too late at night will have your liver working overtime when it should be recharging and repairing. Avoiding ish loads of carbs and protein, as well as alcohol in the evening, will help your liver repair at its designated time.

Tap this point! If you wake up between 1-3 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep, tap the acupuncture point at the base of your big toe nail. Tap it quickly 30 times with your finger.
Emotions tied to your liver 

In TCM, the liver is recognized as the organ that most affected by stress and emotion. Anger, anxiety, frustration, and guilt are all associated with your liver and the 1-3 a.m. time spot. Any of these feelings could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.

Think back to the last time you were in a stressful time of your life. Did you wake between 1 and 3 a.m.?

Those TCM dude and dudettes knew what was up 2500 years ago!
Another thing you may notice is that your heart is beating out of your chest. If you have (had) this, make it a priority to get to the root of these feelings so you can release them and get clarity.
Yellowing of the white of eye. Liver dysfunction.
Eyes as an indicator of your liver function

Your eyes also give insight into possible liver dysfunction. Any of the following could indicate that you liver function is compromised:

1. blurry vision
2. red or dry eyes
3. itchy eyes
4. jaundice–even the Western medicine dudes recognize this as liver dysfunction

Tendons and your liver function

Tendinopathy is one of the most common sites of pain in athletic and non-athletic populations. According to TCM, tendon and liver health are like Khloe and Tristan or Tristan and Jordyn (or whatever is going on there) when one is compromised there’s a chance the other’s function will be compromised.

Western medicine note: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease affects 1/3 of the people in the US.

This is some scary ish!

How to tell if you have tendinopathy:

1. pain that’s worse with initial movement but improves when you warm up

2. crackling or grating as you move the joint

3. swelling or heat

5 Actionable steps to get your liver kickin

1. Get to the root of negative emotions. Anger, guilt, and other negative emotions can keep you up at night. If you wake between 1-3 a.m., tap the acupuncture point at the base of the big toe nail (see picture above). Sleep in peace.

2. Avoid eating a huge ass dinner with an ish load of carbs and protein. If you wake up hot and sweaty in the middle of the night your dinner could be the root. If this is happening, you may want to consider skipping dinner. The first 3 days are the most challenging. If you have inflammation or autoimmune disease this can be a gamechanger for you.

3. Match your activities with the sun. Light is the major controller of the master clock in your brain. If you are working out at 8 p.m. you are telling your body clocks that it’s daytime. Your body clocks will then relay the information to your brain. And if you’re grubbing at 8:30 p.m. you’re telling your body clocks that it’s daytime. Avoid intense activity and eating when the sun is down. Go to bed!

4. Along with breathwork, practice conscious relaxation exercises throughout the day. Do a scan of your entire body finding where you feel tension. Common places for tension are the face, neck, and shoulders. Get rid of the tension!

5. If you can’t fall asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night take note of what you’re feeling. Are you emotional? Are you hungry? Most of the time it’s one of these at the root.

Have an awesome weekend!

Your Cornerman with love,

Dr. Thoma

WARNING: the information presented here is strictly educational. Talk with your doctor to see if taking care of your liver is appropriate for you.

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