Do you always seem to wake up at the same time? As it turns out, waking up at 3am is a really common complaint, and it’s all down to one organ that carries out its main functions at 3am. Find out which organ is to blame and what you can do about it in today’s blog post!
In all the years I have been helping customers in health food shops, the most frequent sleep related question I have been asked is ‘why do I always wake up at 3am?‘. It seems that this is a huge problem for people, far more than issues of actually getting to sleep.
Modern diets and lifestyles put a lot of pressure on the body, whether it’s from too much fatty food and refined sugar, from the consumption of alcohol or stimulants, or from too much stress – or a combination of all these!
One organ in particular that suffers from this type of lifestyle is the liver – and, you guessed it, it’s the liver that carries out many of its main functions in the early hours of the morning!
The science behind it
One thing to be aware of is that, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, our internal organs work to a 24 hour ‘clock’, with certain times of day being peak times for that organ. This is the time that the organ will carry out its most essential functions.
In Chinese medicine, any repeated issues that occur at a particular time of the day suggest an imbalance in the corresponding organ. For example, I do not wake early but often feel excessively tired at around 6pm and this, according to my acupuncturist, is because my kidney function is weak.
As you can see from this schedule, 1-3am is ‘liver time’. One thing the liver needs is energy, and for that it uses glycogen from the body’s sugar stores. The problem is that adrenaline production also uses up glycogen, and adrenaline is what we produce when we are stressed and when our blood sugar levels are unstable.
So if you spend the whole day stressed and with your blood sugar levels going up and down like a yo-yo, by the time it gets to 1am, there will not be enough glycogen left for the liver to regenerate. In this scenario, the body has to produce adrenaline to compensate – and as adrenaline is designed to keep us awake, you will wake up at this point.
What to do
Luckily, unless there are serious medical conditions compounding the problem, there are lots of things you can do to help yourself if waking at 3am is a problem for you:
1. Keep a remedy near you
While changes to your diet and lifestyle can take a while to implement and to take effect, what can you do in the short term, or when you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night? One thing I would do is keep a bottle of Dormeasan by your bed and take a dose when you wake up – this should help you to get back to sleep quickly as, in tincture form, Dormeasan can enter your bloodstream effiecently, resulting you feeling the benefits quicker!
The liver does not like alcohol, junk food, very rich food or drugs like painkillers. Cut these out as much as possible and make your last meal of the day the lightest, so that the liver is not trying to regenerate while dealing with, for example, a cheese fondue at the same time.
The adrenals, as I have said before, are boring! They do not like stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, stress or even stimulation from things like computer screens and the Internet. It is hard to limit stressful scenarios, as we all have to work and have busy lives, but you can limit the impact on your adrenals. In an ideal scenario, cut out all refined sugar and caffeine from the diet, or at least cut out caffeine after noon.
Stop using smartphones and computers after 8-9pm, and try deep breathing or meditation techniques before bed. To reduce stress levels in the body during the day, consider one of our Bach flower remedies, such as Mood Essence, and taking magnesium supplements at night can also be useful.
A.Vogel Self-Care Tip: Caffeine Swap
Watch my self-care tip for swapping caffeine for something healthier for your adrenals:
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4. Balance your blood sugar levels
To best balance your blood sugar, eat regular meals and avoid all refined sugar and carbohydrates such as white bread or pasta, etc. If you do feel your blood sugar dipping, eating a protein-rich snack such as nuts is better than reaching for sugary things – although the sugar will perk you up initially, it will only lead to your blood sugar levels crashing again a little while later.
Some people with night-time waking might find that they need a small, healthy snack before bed to stop their blood sugar dipping at 3am. Try oatcakes or a banana. For more night time snack ideas check out my top 5 foods to help you sleep blog post.
Do you regularly wake at 3am? Or is your sleep constantly disruptive at another time of the night?
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