Why Do I Wake Up at the Same Time Every Night?

by Dr. Lauren Dyer L.Ac. DAC |

Why Do I Wake Up at the Same Time Every Night?

“Not again…”


“Why this time?”

If your nocturnal alarm clock wakes you at the same time every night, the frustration is real. If you are thinking it is because of a fixed pattern or rhyme, then you are right. It’s not something random and The Chinese Medicine has got the correct explanation for it.


Chinese Medicine states that in a 24-hours day, our circadian rhythms are divided into 2-hour intervals. During each time periods, the concentration of qi (energy) and blood spike in a particular internal organ so that it can restart and synchronize. This is important for sleep because:

Waking up on a fixed time means the particular organ being monitored at that timeframe is imbalanced.

You can say that your body is working hard to bring that organ back to balance. Likewise, chronically skimping on sleep from staying up too late can also disrupt that organ by not allowing it to process during its restorative time-frame. This can quickly result in a dangerous cycle. So how do you break it? Hear your body when it asks to start

When you are eager to sleep, it’s natural to test things that can work right away. Before trying acupuncture, many people told me that they were taking heavy medications or melatonin that caused many side effects like worsened sleep, addiction, and other. But instead of battling your symptoms, did you think that they might be telling you something?

Of course, symptoms tell you that something isn’t right going on in your body.

Focus on when they appear and determine their root cause. That’s how you’ll be able to interpret them.

This is why the Chinese Medicine Body Clock can be so useful: it highlights what organ systems are struggling and why.

Look at the hours when you wake up as your body might be informing you with something…



The muscle surrounding the heart is called the Pericardium. In TCM it is known as the “great wrapper.” It provides insulation for the heart, regulates circulation in the major vessels going to and from it, while also protecting the it from infection. Energetically the Pericardium is our heart’s protector. Similar to a body guard, it analyzes the room and determines the safe place. It guards the heart from everyday emotional fluctuations and shocking stimuli, making it the first to absorb emotional pain and stress. The Pericardium rules self-expression, boundaries, and vulnerability.

joyful woman


Balanced: Joy, Confidence, Openness, Self Acceptance
Imbalanced: Mania, Despair, Fear of Expression & Intimacy


Nervous laughter, Hypervigilance, Phobias, Nausea, Vomiting, Relationship Fears, Hopelessness, Vertigo.


This is a good time to start winding down for the night, ideal for reconnecting to loved ones and yourself. Eat a light dinner or snack; Enjoy meaningful conversation. Establish some nurturing rituals at this time: a skincare routine, gratitude journaling, mindful introspection, etc.


What is your heart’s desire? What would make you feel joyful in life? How will you develop a fixed space in your life so you can put efforts or experience it? How can you safely express your fears so that they no longer have a hold on you?


The Triple Burner (also called Triple Energizer) is not only a single organ but also it is a network that manages our body’s fluid metabolism. Related to our lymphatic and endocrine systems, the Triple Burner ensures free flow and communication between all of our organ systems in the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis (Upper, Middle, and Lower Burners, respectively). From a biomedical view, its physical form is our connective tissue (collagen and fascia) which is liquid-crystalline and semi-conductive in nature, allowing signals to be exchanged throughout the body. Vigorously, the Triple Burner relates to self-regulation, coordination, and harmony. It focuses on your original self as well as what you think the world perceives about you. It manifests your capability to take in (Upper), transform (Middle), and eliminate (Lower) what belongs to you and what doesn’t.


Balanced: Discernment, Friendliness, Cooperative
Imbalanced: Suspicion, Guilt, Stubbornness, Confusion, Dogmatic


Swollen lymph nodes, Edema, Sluggish Metabolism, Adrenal Fatigue, Burnout, Autoimmune-related Inflammation, Fibromyalgia, Thyroid disorders, Head + Earaches, Tinnitus (ear ringing), Nerve Pain, Alternating Chills + Fever

Like the Pericardium (which is closely related to the Triple Burner) feeling safe is needed to fall asleep here. This is the time where your mind is anxious to fall asleep and if you do, you will wake up immediately. These circumstances mean that your adrenal glands are burdened, making your nervous system trapped in a sympathetic (fight-or-flight) mode. You might be internalizing stress and other people’s energy from that day.

Sleep Samples


If you think this is you, try getting to bed earlier and use the tips from the Pericardium time (above) to relax and comfort your nervous system. At this time, strictly avoid screen time, especially social media and news where you actively involve and ruminate on others people’s lives + global issues). If you are noise sensitive, try earplugs. If you are more anxious, a weighted blanket can help create a sense of comfort and safety to help you sleep more soundly.


Are you internalizing other people’s perceptions, expectations, and emotions? Can you allow yourself to feel safe and rest so you can have the energy needed for tomorrow?


The Gallbladder excretes bile to assist in digestion. In Chinese Medicine, it governs the sinews (muscles, tendons, ligaments) and their strength. Energetically, the Gallbladder is in charge of judgement and decision-making. It provides the courage and initiative to carry out tasks so our lives can run smoothly. It also rules dreams. This is why having peaceful sleep at this time is important as it supports healthy cognitive functioning and cellular repair.


Balanced: Optimism, Initiative, Courage, Assertive, Committed
Imbalanced: Cynicism, Bitterness, Timidity, Indecisive, Procrastination


Tendonitis, High Cholesterol, Temporal Headaches, Gallstones, Indigestion (especially after rich, fatty-melas), Gas, Bloating, Cravings for greasy foods, Cholecystitis, Rib-side pain, Indecision, Poor Judgement, Anxiety, Impulsiveness, Shyness, Dream-Disturbed sleep, Brain Fog, Dizziness

avocados, coconut, olives, nuts, fish

If you wake up at this point, it means that you are facing issues with decision-making. You may be holding strong judgments about others (like the expression “I cannot believe the gall of that person”). Physically, your Gallbladder might be overworked especially if you ate a large meal right before bed. Intake of high processed or fried foods can also lead to waking at this time.


Try eating a smaller portioned dinner a few hours before bed so your Gallbladder is not trying to digest food during this time. Consider getting healthier oils your diet from avocados, coconut, olives, nuts, fish, quality meat, etc. Increase intake of bitter leafy vegetables (dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, kale, escarole, endive) and sour flavors like unfiltered apple-cider vinegar and lemon juice. Avoid trans-fats; limit fried + processed foods.


Is there a decision you are struggling with? Are you overburdened by having too many responsibilities in your waking hours? If yes, what measures do you take to mitigate or turn over decisions to relax your mind? What judgments can you let go of? Where can you have more compassion?


The Liver is responsible for filtering blood and processing chemicals ingested from our food, environment, drugs, household cleaners, toiletries, cosmetics, etc. The Liver also keeps our sex, thyroid, and adrenal hormones in balance. In Chinese Medicine, we relate these roles comprehensively as the Liver confirms the seamless circulation of qi and blood. It appears in the eyes, hair, and nails. Energetically, the Liver acts our body’s Controller (I passionately relate the organ with a Type-A personality). It thrives on planning, organization, and structure to help us get things done from everyday demands to materializing our dreams. It is negatively affected by everyday stress. Because of the Liver’s role in “clearing,” when overworked it becomes stagnant leading to health issues characterized by poor processing and circulation.


Balanced: Inspiration, Clear Vision, Faith, Diligence
Imbalanced: Anger, Frustration, Irritability, Resentment, Feeling Stuck


Moodiness, Depression, Emotional Outbursts, PMS, Endometriosis, High Blood Pressure, Migraines, Breast Tenderness, Frequent Sighing, Feeling of Lump in the Throat, Red Eyes + Face, Jaundice, Eye Floaters, Poor or Blurry Vision, Brittle Nails, Thinning Hair, Painful Periods, Ribside-pain, Shingles, Acne, Cold Hands + Feet, Resentful, Road Rage, Alcoholism.

When you wake up at this time, it means that your Liver is full and cannot cleanse your body completely of what you consumed. This can also result from drinking excess alcohol before bedtime.
Side note: It’s a common perception that alcohol helps people fall asleep quickly. However, it will still disturb your sleep and make you awake from 1-3am as your Liver is working overtime to metabolize it. The same thing happens when you are taking a lot of medications or OTC painkillers. That is why their label disclaimers for Liver toxicity. You can also be absorbing too many toxins from your environment (think air + water quality), household products (cleaners), and cosmetics which lack robust FDA regulation, enabling companies to use heavy metals, chemicals, and hormone-disrupting plastics that can lead to more Liver congestion.

night stress


Moderate alcohol consumption. Exercise frequently (little to no movements physically goes side by side with emotional inactivity). Take short breaks from desk work. Use blue-light blocking glasses as it relieve eye strain. Practice deep breathing during difficult moments. Find healing ways to express your emotions instead of letting them stay inside. Download the app Think Dirty to find cleaner home and personal products—you can look up the rating and ingredients on ones you already use plus scan store items before bringing them home (not affiliated, just highly recommend it).


What is creating congestion in your life? Are you a regular drinker of alcohol during the week or before bed? Would you be willing to investigate and switch to cleaner household and personal items that safer for your health? Are you harboring frustrations and resentment? If yes, how do you cater to them so they don’t trap you anymore?


The Lungs regulate breathing, distribute oxygen to the blood, and govern our immune system by circulating the body’s Defensive Qi. In Chinese Medicine, the Lungs maintain boundaries between our internal and external environment by controlling the skin and sweat glands’ ability to detox. The Lungs also control our voice and sense of smell. Energetically, they relate to communication, receiving, releasing, and protection.


Balanced: Acceptance, Surrender, Clarity
Imbalanced: Grief, Sadness, Nostalgia


Extended periods of Sadness and Grief, Asthma, Shortness of breath, Prolonged Sweating (or lack of), Allergies, Low voice, Weak Immune System (gets sick easily), Crying, Chest Pain, Skin Conditions (dryness, acne, eczema), occipital headache, tiredness, smoking dependency.

Waking up at this time happens if you are suffering from allergies or a respiratory infection. There can also be a difficult transition, long-repressed sadness, and grief that has not been fully processed.



If you intentionally wake up at these hours to start your day, its a perfect time to practice some deep breathing or meditation. If not, consider adopting some light physical activity during the day to improve your lung capacity: walking, yoga, meditation. If you are having difficulty working through grief and loss, consider if talking to a counselor would be helpful for you.


Are you fighting a cold or coming down with one? Are you struggling with loss or sadness? How can you manage time and space to process it?


The Large Intestine is responsible for elimination. It collectively works with the Lungs to purify the body of food waste, toxins, excess hormones, and even our emotions. It vigorously depicts the ability to “let go” and release the power of control. A lot of people normally wake up between these hours, but if that is abnormal for your sleep patterns, consider the Large Intestine’s meaning which might lend some insight.


Balanced: Releasing, Ability to Express Emotions (including crying), Flexibility Imbalanced: Rigidity, Stubbornness, Controlling, Inability to Let Go


Constipation, IBS, Diarrhea, Colitis, Hemorrhoids, Diverticulitis, Bloating, Food Allergies, Chronic Fatigue

In Chinese Medicine, the Large Intestine and the Lungs are closely related so waking at this time represents bottled feelings of grief or sadness, or also a need for control. Focus on your diet and water intake if you see irregular bowel movements during this time or throughout the day.


Drink more water (general recommendation is half of you body weight in ounces a day), regular exercise, get natural fiber from vegetables and dark leafy greens, avoid many cold-raw foods and cold drinks which can constrict intestines + slow gastric motility, eat more warm + cooked foods


What are you holding onto? Are you decluttering and allowing new things in your life? What are your expectations of others? Do you allow people to express their original self or let a situation happen without deliberately changing the outcome?



Acupuncture effectively and holistically treats insomnia by addressing the stubborn symptoms keeping you up at night while treating the underlying reasons they are showing up in the first place—both mind and body.

Considering the biomedical perspective, Acupuncture elevates melatonin production without side effects or making your dependent on it. Research has demonstrated that “compared to no treatment, sham acupuncture, or medications, acupuncture was significantly better on improving parameters in sleep quality and duration, and the combination of acupuncture and other interventions (pharmaceuticals) appears more effective than those interventions alone.” A main mechanism of Acupuncture is its ability to shift your mind out of overdrive. As per science, Acupuncture suppresses the nervous system from an elevated sympathetic state (fight-or-flight) to a parasympathetic state to help rest-and-digest. It improves your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) which measures your nervous system’s ability to switch between these two modes at appropriate times. The trouble with insomnia is that it oftentimes leads to—and is caused by—not being able to switch ‘survival’ mode off. This not only has negative effects on HRV, but overall health with evidence linking insomnia to depression and diminished recovery (injuries + illness) to cardiovascular disease and dementia.

It’s no surprise that your stress levels and emotional state directly affect your sleep. For centuries, Chinese Medicine has understood how emotions can manifest physically as symptoms and vice versa, how our physical well-being can determine our psychology. From stress and trapped emotions to on-going trauma and impossible transitions to beyond, these are links I witness every day and I can help you through it.

Dr. Lauren Dyer, DACM, L.Ac., was inspired to study Acupuncture by how Acupuncture promoted wellness instead of just combating disease, and how it took a person's lifestyle, diet, and even psychology into account while treating the underlying factors contributing to imbalance for sustainable relief. Lauren is passionate about bridging the gaps in understanding between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Bio-medical paradigms, and she incorporates current research and evidence-based approaches into her practice. You can learn more about Lauren at runeacupuncture.com.

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