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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan on August 29, 2022

How To Maximize Each Sleep Cycle

Regulating your internal clock by going to bed at the same time every night can help you maximize each sleep cycle, resulting in more energy and brain power throughout the day with fewer unhealthy food cravings.

Internal clock min scaled

Do you wake up feeling like you didn’t fully complete a sleep cycle last night? If so, it could be because you’re not going to bed at the right time.

Having a set bedtime routine can help regulate your body’s internal clock to maximize your sleep cycle. The result? You wake up feeling energized with better heart health and fewer unhealthy food cravings throughout the day.

If this sounds like something you could benefit from, read on. This guide explains what time you should be going to bed each night to maximize your sleep cycle.

What Is A Sleep Cycle?

5 stages of sleep cycle
The average sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes. You will go through about four to six of these per night.

When we doze off, our brain goes through a sleep cycle every night. After you experience drowsiness, your body goes into N1 (light sleep), N2, N3 (deep sleep), and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

In total, the whole cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes and normally repeats four to six times. Our sleep cycle can also determine how rested we are at night.

If we are awakened from our slumber suddenly, the cycle will be broken, and it will have to start all over again. This can decrease our sleep quality and make us feel tired the next day.

The concept of the sleep cycle explained above is based on the 2007 guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

However, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees it differently. By looking at what happens in our body every hour while asleep and awake, TCM’s version of the sleep cycle may give us an idea about the best time to go to bed.

Sleep Cycles, According To TCM

To understand the sleep mechanism from TCM’s point of view, we must first go back to one of its foundations, the Yin and Yang principle. With Yin representing passivity (descending motion) and Yang symbolizing activity (ascent), the two forces might be complete opposites, but they are also complimentary.

TCM uses YinYang to interpret many of its theories on health or various diseases and conditions, including sleep. The ancient Chinese medical text Lingshu describes how Yin and Yang influence sleep.

In TCM, the sleep-and-awake cycle is regulated by the continuous circulation owei qi (protective qi). It is believed that wei qi travels in yang by day and in yin at night. When yang is depleting, yin will be in fullness, leading to sleepiness. And vice versa; when yin is at its end, yang will be abundant, resulting in wakefulness. 

This process can also explain insomnia and its remedies. TCM views insomnia as the consequence of an excess of yang or Fire in the Heart and Liver. The Heart is thought to be the ruler of shen, which is equivalent to the mind or spirit.

When there is too much yang or Fire in the Heart, the shen will become affected, which distresses the mind and causes emotional disorders like insomnia. This is why TCM physicians usually prescribe medicines that reduce the Fire and nourish the yin when treating insomnia. 

Best Time To Go To Bed To Regulate Your Sleep Cycle

A young woman sleeping next to an alarm clock that reads approximately 11 pm
According to TCM, the best time to go to bed is 11 pm.

While wei qi circulates the body, it goes through the meridians (the channels where our qi, blood, and body fluids move). Wei qi does this 25 times along yang meridians during daytime and then 25 more times throughout yin meridians at night.

Whewei qi flows through a meridian, it will spend around two hours in it. There, wei qi will vitalize and strengthen the organs correlated with the said meridian. Afterward, wei qi will resume its journey to the next meridian, where it will repeat its action to nourish other organs.

The chart below depicts which meridians wei qi visits and the organs it interacts with during its 24-hour circulation. Using the meridian clock as a basis, we can determine the best time to sleep according to TCM, which is by 11 pm.

1 am – 3 am Liver
3 am – 5 amLungs
5 am – 7 amLarge intestines
7 am – 9 amStomach
9 am – 11 amSpleen
11 am – 1 pmHeart
1 pm – 3 pmSmall intestines
3 pm – 5 pmBladder
5 pm – 9 pmPericardium
9 pm – 11 pmTriple burner (manages the movement of water) 
11 pm – 1 amGall bladder
This chart shows the different meridians Wei Qi visits and what organs it affects.

The chart above can also identify if there’s a disruption in the organ systems. If sleep constantly gets disturbed at a particular hour, it may indicate trouble in the corresponding organ. 

Consider herbal remedies to help you sleep

If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, you may consider taking an herbal sleep supplement to help regulate the body’s internal clock.

A good night’s rest is vital to well-being, and to achieve that, you need to maintain a healthy sleep cycle. Your job or life demands may keep you awake for many hours, and you may not know when to take a break. But you shouldn’t forgo your rest, as sleep is necessary to revitalize and strengthen your organs.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Natural Rhythm of Yin and Yang in Our Body,” which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website 

We want to hear from you! How do you ensure you get quality sleep at night? Share your tips in the comments below.

References

  1. Yumpu. 2002. Lingshu [online]. Available at: <https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/16050266/huangdi-neijing-lingshu-biblionhat-namru>
  2. Eu Yan Sang. 2018. TCM And Childhood Ailments: Disturbed Sleep [online]. Available at: <https://www.euyansang.com.sg/en/tcm-and-childhood-ailments%3A-disturbed-sleep/eyschailments2.html
  3. Science Direct. 2016. Human biological rhythm in traditional Chinese medicine [online]. Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095754816301028

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