Just dropping off to sleep….

Do you ever find yourself jolted suddenly awake as you are drifting off the sleep? As if you are falling off the bed? In Traditional Chinese Medicine we call this a ‘hun shudder’. The word hun is a Chinese word which is translated as ‘ethereal soul’, to distinguish it from another kind of soul called the ‘po’ or ‘corporeal soul’. The hun likes to wander off, which it does in dreams, for instance. Sometimes in illness the hun is held too tight, restricted, unable to roam free – this is often the case in depression, for instance. The hun is also responsible for planning as well as dreaming, it is what gives us the ability to formulate goals and have a sense of direction in our life, so when it is restricted we lose this ability and life becomes empty and meaningless. In a way, we cannot dream. We cannot dream of a better life for ourselves.

On the other hand when the hun is too free to wander, we may dream all too much. We have vivid dreams a night, so much so that we wake up exhausted, we have a lot of hun shudders, perhaps we become a bit manic. We have plenty of ideas, plans and dreams, but we are too chaotic to put them into practice.

Interestingly, the hun is said to be housed in the blood. If our blood is depleted, the hun can wander too much. I notice this sometimes with women patients who have heavy periods, or who have lost a lot of blood in giving birth – sometimes these women have very vivid dreams, hun shudders, and experiences of their dreams somehow invading their waking life. Sleepwalking or talking in the sleep are other similar symptoms, and exhaustion often goes with them.. Often a short course of acupuncture or some blood nourishing Chinese herbs are all that is needed to build up the blood and ‘root’ the soul properly.

Is this all just mumbo-jumbo? No doubt these experiences can be explained scientifically, but I rather feel such explanations will lose something important. What is important is summed up in the word ‘soul’; it is no coincidence that we use the word ‘soulless’ to denote a lack of humanity. What I like about Chinese Medicine is that it is rooted in what you might call a ‘soulful’ view of human life. It is a medicine which realises that the ‘soul’ must be nourished and looked after just as much as the body. In fact, quite a lot of illnesses arise because the soul is neglected, and this has effects on the body, as hinted at above. Sometimes these effects are a lot more serious than a few jolts as you drop off to sleep.

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