Building Immunity: The Importance of Sleep

Night time is the right time for sleep.

According to the Chinese Medicine clock, 11:00 PM starts the 2 hour window of Gallbladder Qi dominance. The Gallbladder, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a Fu, or hollow organ, like the stomach and bowels. But, unlike other Fu organs,it does not transport turbid or impure waste. Instead, it stores a pure fluid...bile. Like Zang organs, such as the liver,heart and kidneys, it cannot be accessed through an exterior entry to the body.  This makes the Gallbladder an "extraordinary organ". It has the unique role of being a pivot. It's time frame is the period of our day transitioning from the waning of Yin to the emergence of Yang. This makes it the ideal time to be in bed, asleep.

The organs that follow in 2 hour segments through the night are Liver> Lung> Large> Intestine.  This encompasses the ideal 8 hour span for sleep.  During this time, important restorative and regenerative processes take place. Like a grocery store, it's easier to clean and restock after business hours when it's quiet and everyone has gone home.

We now know the Gallbladder has set the stage, closing up the store (Yin) and then letting in the cleaning crew (Yang).  (This is out time to be transitioning into sleep).

The Liver  comes in at 1:00 AM and starts cleaning. It is responsible for cleaning the blood of toxins and then storing it, ready for return to the Heart. Too much alcohol and/or late night eating makes for an extra work load on the Liver.  If it is busy with the cleanup on aisle six, it cannot get to the deep cleaning work needed in the rest of the store.

The Liver is also responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, directing energy to all the other organs. When the Liver does it's job, we are calm and relaxed, and can digest, metabolize, and eliminate optimally.  Since it's the shift leader, if the Liver doesn't get it's work done, it creates a domino effect and all the other organs can't do their jobs.

The Lungs start their shift at 3:00. Deep sleep at this stage allows the Lungs to work more efficiently, restocking the body with oxygen and carrying out waste (carbon dioxide). The Lungs are associated with clear thinking, so expelling negativity with each exhalation leaves us feeling more energized in the morning.

The Large Intestine is on duty at 5:00. It's job is to collect up the trash from the cleaners and, like a trash compactor, consolidate the waste, store the last bit of fluids and ready it for removal.

At 7:00, the store is cleaned and stocked, ready to open. The Stomach clocks in and goes to work. This first two hours of the day is ideal for hydrating and eating a nutritious meal.

This cycle keeps our body in good functioning order and supports our Wei, or Defensive Qi, better known to most as immunity. We cannot avoid germs, but we can have a system in place to fight off those germs. When our immune system is working optimally we may never have a symptom because our body is already taking care of the issue before it becomes a problem.  

Sharon Shuppert, L.Ac. Owner of The Phoenix & Dragon Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

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