Sleep is one of the most important foundations of good health. A good night’s rest makes us face the day with vigor, while ongoing sleep troubles erode our sense of well-being. During sleep, our unconscious mind busily processes both recent events and past unresolved issues, and sleep can be viewed as a sensitive indicator of our alignment with our true self. When we are fully aligned with our inner being we tend to sleep soundly and have excellent energy the following day, whereas any discrepancy between our conscious and unconscious minds may interrupt sleep.
From diagnosis to treatment
The correct diagnosis marks only the beginning of the homeopathic healing journey. The action of a homeopathic remedy is very individual, and the initial phase of improvement may be experienced by the patient as turbulent. Physical symptoms may get worse before they get better, there may be swings in mood and energy levels, and interpersonal relations may be strained as the patient begins to shift on a deeper level. Although general trends of improvement in mood and energy are quite reliable indicators of a positive response to homeopathic treatment, among the most reliable are improvement in sleep quality and a shift in the pattern or content of dreams. Indeed, even during periods of apparent lack of progress or emotional turmoil, positive changes in these indicators can herald eventual improvement.
Sleep and dreams are sensitive indicators of spiritual health
Although only a minority of patients present with sleep problems as their main complaint, many people sleep poorly enough that they report an improvement in this sphere when prompted by the homeopath. Shifts in sleep and dreaming while under homeopathic care can therefore occur incidentally to shifts in the main complaint, serving as non-specific indicators of the state of spiritual health of the organism, irrespectively of the nature of the main complaint.
An accurately prescribed homeopathic remedy will often alter the pattern of dreaming early on in the treatment process. The first (and in my experience more common) pattern involves a temporary surge in dreaming that results either in more remembered dreams or at least in an increase in awareness of having dreamt at night. This phenomenon is generally construed as a surfacing of unconscious material and its integration into the person’s conscious life experience. This integration in turn frequently promotes a feeling of well-being that compensates for any dream-induced sleep interruption.
The second pattern is seen in patients who used to dream a lot and presently begin to experience more peaceful sleep. In these patients it seems that there is already a good connection to the subconscious, but issues are rehashed and re-experienced without resolution. As these issues are resolved, the need to re-experience them within sleep decreases, and dreaming is reduced accordingly. This situation must be contrasted with the situation wherein a patient starts dreaming less yet also sleeps more poorly: in such cases the reduction in dreaming suggests that there is increasing disconnection from the subconscious, and that the prescription should be reconsidered.
It is normal for the chief complaint – when it is physical or mental rather than purely spiritual – to lag behind the spiritual state, since the physical or mental complaint can improve only once the spiritual state has begun to shift for the better. For this reason changes in sleep and dreaming are among the earliest and most sensitive clinical indicators of improvement. As such, they are extremely helpful whenever changes in specific symptoms are vague, contradictory, or otherwise difficult to interpret.
Finally, a shift in the content of dreams is a useful indicator of the trajectory of progress. A recurrent dream accompanied by a negative emotion may become gradually less emotionally salient until its emotional charge dissipates completely; a recurrent failure to complete a certain action or achieve a goal may resolve within a dream before it begins resolving also in waking life; a relationship may be mended in a dream before the same takes place in reality; or Hering’s Law may manifest itself nocturnally through dreams of dead or living people from the patient’s past. In every such case it is helpful to share with the patient the homeopathic perspective on the dream, both in order to foster greater self-awareness and in order to convey the fact that this represents a sign of improvement. Individual homeopaths may choose to further delve into the meaning of such dreams, but optimal progress can be reliably achieved without resorting to deep dream analysis.
The importance of dreams for long-term case management
It is imperative for homeopaths both to comprehend the true nature of homeopathic medicine and to be able to educate patients about the fundamental laws of healing. Yet homeopaths are unfortunately not always cognizant of the fact that homeopathy is purely spiritual medicine, or may be swayed away from their conviction by their desire to relieve their patients’ suffering as quickly as possible. Homeopathic patients, on their part, may form unrealistic expectations about their pace of progress and become disillusioned once relief is not quick to come.
By paying attention to dreams throughout the course of treatment, the homeopath can better detect the subtle shifts in spiritual health that precede more obvious physical or mental changes, and similarly track the patient’s long-term progress. The homeopath that practices in this manner will often persist with a single, carefully chosen remedy for the several months to several years that it takes to fully resolve a spiritual imbalance, thereby overcoming the widespread temptation of chasing symptoms with a rapid succession of remedies.