From the controversial last-minute email investigation that yielded nothing new to the lewd Trump tape to enough insults (from Trump himself) to fill a two-page spread in The New York Times ― Democrats and Republicans alike can agree this 2016 election cycle has been a living nightmare.
And for many, the presidential race has triggered actual nightmares too. In a hilarious, if distressing post, Slate editors shared the subconscious terrors that have taken over in recent months:
“I dreamed that Donald Trump was president and my partner and I were sent to a North Korean work camp. (Whether he’d rounded us up because we’re gay or women or rabid progressives was unclear.),” said Christina Cauterucci, a Slate staff writer.
And not all election-provoked dreams are necessarily so literal. Ben Mathis-Lilley, Slatest editor, who said he hasn’t had any Trump-specific dreams, recounted this unsettling dream after (consciously) stressing over the election:
“I did wake up on Saturday night at 4 a.m. worried about what might happen if Trump won, and when I went back to sleep I had a dream in which I was staring at myself naked in a mirror. And in the dream I had become morbidly obese and had lost most of the hair on my body,” he said.
This phenomenon isn’t surprising to dream research Mark Blagrove, a professor in the department of psychology at Swansea University in Wales.
We dream about things that are emotionally meaningful to us ― whether those emotions are positive or negative, according to Blagrove. And that explains why Slate editors (and likely many of the rest of us) have been subconsciously dealing with this election.
“What matters is not that [these] journalists cover the election for a job or for much of the day, but that [the election] elicits emotions in the journalist and they care about it,” Blagrove said.
Dreaming is how we deal
Experts still aren’t exactly sure why we dream, but they’re fairly confident that most of us do it every night when we sleep. Some sleep medicine experts suspect that dreams are a way for the brain to incorporate memories, solve problems and deal with our emotions, according to information from the National Sleep Foundation.
Other theories suggest that dreams are simply the by-product of the brain activity that occurs while we sleep.
Psychologist Sigmund Freud suggested that our dreams are a “safety valve” for people to experience their unconscious desires (without being dangerous or reckless in the process), Psychology Today reported.
Nightmares are a result of our worries, fears and stressors
It’s definitely normal to experience the occasional nightmare, particularly when we are worried or stressed about something, Blagrove explained. The brain’s emotion centers are active during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep ― the lightest stage of sleep when we dream ― so it’s to be expected that the emotions we feel and ruminate about during the day might emerge in our dreams (or nightmares).
“One theory holds that nightmares are linked to a function of dreams in reducing our memories of fears, but that nightmares occur when the fears are too intense,” Blagrove said. “Fear of what has been unleashed by the other side, and hopes for one’s own side.”
Managing stress helps
If the stress someone is feeling is real, it may be difficult to necessarily avoid nightmares, Blagrove explained. But any effort to reduce stress (like mindfulness or meditation), especially before bed, is probably the best defense.
If someone is experiencing frequent nightmares that are waking them up often and causing them to not get enough sleep, there are therapies that have been found to be effective in reducing nightmares, according to recent guidelines.
And of course, any disturbing election-related dreams may subside on their own, given that this election’s votes are just a few hours away from being cast (for better or for worse).
Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at email@example.com.