Excess Dreaming

Photo by Bruce Christianson on Unsplash

Excess Dreaming can mean that your rapid eye movement sleep is too frequent or restless, and in the morning that you’re exhausted.

Chinese medicine takes this seriously. At night, your Spirit (the Chinese word is ‘Shen‘ which has a different meaning than ‘Spirit’ as used in Abrahamic religions) should ‘rest’ in your Blood. If the Blood isn’t  a ‘comfortable’ place for it, or the Spirit is disturbed, it can’t rest properly and it keeps ‘bubbling’ up in dreams that prevent good restful sleep.

This page explains how excess dreaming upsets the harmony. As you’ll realise, it comes down to imbalance between yin and yang energies. Mostly, with excess dreaming there is yang excess, but it’s not all that straightforward! (For more on this, click on yin and/or yang – concepts for stable wisdom.)


Chinese Syndromes for Excess Dreaming

Some of the main reasons for excess dreaming are listed in this diagram.

  • Food Retention: this is what can happen after overfeeding or over-drinking too close to trying to go to sleep. The food or drink sits inside you, heating up and blocking the natural flow. Click the link for a much fuller description, but basically this is because you push food down your throat (or that of your baby – it’s a common syndrome in babies whose sleep is restless) too frequently. You don’t allow it to work through in time for the next meal. That creates a traffic jam inside. Like a lot of angry drivers in a traffic jam, tension builds and anger – heat – is expressed. This ‘heat’ or ‘anger’ prevents restful sleep. You get this in people, often older, whose digestions are growing less flexible, who eat too late at night: a gentle walk in the open air before bed sometimes ‘settles’ their digestion. Of course, this syndrome can be somewhat ameliorated by having good bowel movements, especially before bedtime. But that doesn’t solve the problem unless better eating habits, and sometimes nutrition, are established.
  • Heart Blood Stasis: with this syndrome, you become agitated, eventually even delusional. Click the link for a fuller description, but the physical symptoms include chest pains and palpitations. Your Blood isn’t moving properly, leading to cyanosis of your lips and poor circulation in your fingers. Your Blood just won’t flow smoothly. Consequently, your Shen, your Spirit, whose home is your Blood, can’t settle comfortably, making your sleep restless with excess dreaming.

Heart and Kidney need to agree …

  • Heart and Kidney not harmonised: with this syndrome, the natural ‘balance’ between Heart and Kidney is lost and, because both are Yin deficient, you get signs of Heat from deficiency. This heat comes out as night sweats and dryness in the throat and mouth. More significant is the mental restlessness and depression. Click the link to find out more.
  • Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency: this is the classic result of ongoing poor nourishment. It can happen to anyone, including those who either don’t absorb nutrients efficiently, however well they eat, and those who simply don’t eat enough of the right foods. There is dizziness, anaemia, tiredness, and a high level of anxiety, often with foreboding. Bad memory, poor concentration and palpitations. Because the Blood isn’t luxuriant enough, the Shen can’t nestle properly into it and your sleep isn’t deep giving excess dreaming. Click the link for a fuller description.
  • Heart and Gallbladder deficiency: often unsure of themselves, this type of person is not assertive, not good at decisions, and often depressed. Tends to sleep very lightly. Occasionally this syndrome appears after a great shock to the system, but as a rule people seem to be born to it or, perhaps from upbringing, have had their natural confidence and joie-de-vivre knocked out of them. As the Heart isn’t ‘firm’ enough it can’t direct the Shen (Spirit) to go deep, giving excess dreaming. Click the link to read more.

More Reasons for Excess Dreaming

  • Liver and Kidney Yin deficiency: one of the main signs of this syndrome is dryness, of the skin, the throat, the genital fluids, the hair, the eyes. They also get tingling in the arms and legs, tinnitus and backache, and may be irritable in the mornings. This condition comes on gradually over time either from life events which the body has handled poorly (eg menopause) or from overwork. Yin energy is more profound than Blood and usually follows Blood deficiency. If Yin is lacking, it can’t encourage Blood to ‘absorb’ the Shen thoroughly during sleep, so the Shen keeps half-emerging in excess dreaming. Click the link to read more.
  • Liver Fire: this syndrome is the result of long-term anger and frustration. The emotional friction engendered produces Heat of the excess kind, and that heat appears in the body in a variety of ways, usually red, inflamed and hot. So you get red eyes, irascibility; as heat rises, you get distending headaches and noises in the ears; you get insomnia and, if you do manage to get to sleep, which is difficult because the Fire prevents your Shen (Spirit) from settling, the sleep is light with excess dreaming and dreams that are alarming. Click the link to read more about this.
  • Liver Yin deficiency: this syndrome has – as you’d expect – aspects of the Liver failing to keep Qi moving (its prime job) and of Yin deficiency. So you get signs of dryness: of eyes, throat, hair, skin, stools; and irritability, shortness of temper. At night you often get sweats during sleep. Pain is usually better for firm pressure and there is a mild thirst for cool water. Sleep is restless and full of dreams. Click the link for more about this.


Blue skies, the result of excess dreaming
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Even More Reasons for Excess Dreaming

  • Nutritive and Defensive Energies disharmony: this syndrome is complicated. The Chinese understanding is that a fight for your health between the Chinese medical equivalent of your immune system and an invading force has never been fully resolved and the war continues at a deep level. The result is that your body remains at battle stations even though the invader is nowhere to be found. As such, your Shen can’t settle and sleep is difficult. If you do manage to get to sleep, your sleep is light with the tendency towards excess dreaming. Click the link for a fuller description.
  • Phlegm Heat Harasses the Mind: in this syndrome, strong emotions (often from Qi stagnation – see my book below) and what is called a heating diet combine to create what the Chinese call ‘Phlegm’. Just like that stuff from inside you, which most people are a bit embarrassed to show others, this is thick and gluey. In this syndrome it blocks the natural flow of the Shen within the Heart causing severe agitation and episodes of disturbed behaviour, palpitations and tremor. It may be impossible to get to sleep but if you do manage to, your sleep will be disturbed with many dreams. Click the link to find out more.
  • Are there other reasons for excess dreaming? An invasion by Wind-Heat at the Wei or Defensive level – which ordinary people would call a ‘bug’ – comes with fever but aversion to cold. The Heat disturbs the Mind leading to disturbed sleep and excess dreams. All your energy goes into combating the invader so you feel fatigue, and several days later your body may clear the Heat with offensive-smelling diarrhoea. The strength of the battle leads to a drain of Kidney qi, causing backache, usually lumbar. This reaction usually denotes a strong, vigorous constitution.

What about those Dreams?

The kind of dreams you get from these different syndromes varies widely. If you like interpreting dreams, do bear in mind that your state of mind as you try to make sense of your dream will affect your understanding and the way you interpret it.

Put another way, if you get someone with ‘Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency’ to try to interpret the dreams of someone with ‘Phlegm Heat Harasses the Mind’ you would probably get a very different result than if the latter had interpreted the former’s dreams.

The latter – Phlegm Heat Harasses the Mind – might make a far more dramatic interpretation than the former: probably more melodramatic and alarming.

Books on interpreting dreams seldom take this into account.

If you plan to get help with your life perhaps because, among other things disturbing you, excess dreaming and sleep problems are a serious worry, do consider seeing an acupuncturist first. He or she may be able greatly to harmonise your body so that, if you do see a professional counsellor (Jungian Psychotherapists are particularly interested in dreams), you will react to the help you receive more rationally and calmly.

Insomnia Conditions other than Excess Dreaming

Click the following links to find out more:


Click to return from Excess Dreaming to Insomnia Sleep Disorders.

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