Communication between the gut and brain during REM sleep is an important consideration when it comes to dream content. Eating late in the day often means that during the night your body is busy digesting food and this can manifest as action, drama, travel and sometimes violent conflict in dream states, as the mind switches to a sort of inner sensory mode. During REM sleep, the mind produces visual content in response to internal rather than external information.
Some ancient dream interpreters and physicians believed that landscape and environmental features in dreams are a visual representation of the current state of physiology. For example a blocked watercourse may represent blockages in any number of biological systems, or a parched desert may allude to dehydration. Aristotle noted that dream content can betray the beginnings of a subtle malady — as the mind makes a big show out of the slightest sensory stimuli.
Our circadian rhythms can be used to optimise sleep cycles and digestion. Recent research shows that sleep and dream quality can be vastly improved with intermittent fasting, especially when timed so that no food is eaten after 2pm. Being mindful of our natural cycles is the absolute best way to make the most out of sleeping. Being aware of our immediate environment and the sensory inputs we receive leading up to and during sleep is vital for the best quality and most rejuvenating rest.
Exposure to light from screens and other artificial light sources may be the single most damaging habit contributing to poor quality sleep. This light disrupts melatonin production, convincing the body to remain alert even though it should be winding down and readying itself to enter sleep. Other factors that contribute to poor quality sleep and often unsettling dream content are sharp rises in temperature during the night and environmental noise and light.