Bad Sleep and Dreams | A TCM Perspective
Except difficulty in falling asleep, insomnia and early wakeup, another most common problem of bad sleep is caused by dreams. Many people have no problems falling asleep, but they have dreams all night long. What's more, those dreams are vivid, coherent... you feel tired after waking up in the morning.
Let's talk about 3 major typess of dreams.
- Appearing in dreams are those trivia that has happened in the day. Nothing crazy and odd. This means you are not sleeping deep, and your consciousness is still active. Every organ in TCM is seen to have its own unique spirit and the spirit of spleen is called Yi (脾主意）. The spleen is directly related to our capacity of thinking. How well we manage our thoughts, concentrate, exercise discernment and form intention is dependent on the strength of the spleen. Those who sleep light with this type of trivia dreams have weaker digestion, either stomach or spleen not working well.
When we are asleep, some areas of brain is resting. In TCM words, our Hun (魂) is resting, but digestive system is still working. Hun is liver's spirit, and it refers to the ethereal soul. Weaker digestive system involves Hun (魂) to help finish its task, therefore creating a series of dreams. Some people recall all the vivid plots in their dreams, it is even worse. Another weak spleen sign is drooping saliva while sleeping.
What we need to do as acupuncturists is to strengthen the spleen and stomach, so that digestion at night won't disturb Hun's rest. Going to bed without a full stomach is always a good advice.
- The second situation is bizarre dreams all the time. These dreams have nothing to do with your realistic life and you feel strange about them. In TCM, we say that the Hun (魂), the ethereal soul, is travelling outside of the body. This relates to the liver function. Liver holds blood and blood captures Hun (魂), so Hun (魂) can rest inside the body. For these people with bizarre dreams often, we have a famous Traditional Chinese Medicine prescription SuanZaoRenTang (酸枣仁汤), Ziziphi Spinosae Decoction, or we can use acupuncture to nourish liver blood.
- The third situation is scary dreams, nightmares. Falling off high buildings, being chased to kill, bloody scenes, sunk in a dirty environment, or dreaming of those who have died. This type of dreams is the kidney 's problem. The emotion of kidney is fear. If kidney Qi or Kidney Jing is damaged, one gets frightening dreams.
These people often have traumatic experience or have had passing of beloved ones. We have to help remove the cold Yin energy in the body such as stagnant blood, cold phlegm, which stimulates bad dreams; try to secure the kidney Qi and Jing.
A completely healthy person should have no dreams. I wonder how many people are like that ;) But if you think you need a hand to regulate your sleep, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Acupuncture treatment will be focusing on regulating Yin and Yang, balancing involved internal organs such as heart, spleen, liver, kidney and stomach. Cupping on the back to clear heat is also a very helpful therapy for good sleep.