Sleep Disorders Among Holocaust Survivors: A Review of Selected Publications

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Abstract

After World War II, traumatic after effects often caused persistent sleep disorders for Holocaust survivors (HSs). This is a review of studies reporting on sleep disturbances and nightmares (as primary or secondary outcomes) among HSs between 1939 and 2015, conducted in various countries and contexts (clinical settings, pension claims, community surveys, sleep laboratories). Most studies revealed various sleep disturbances among HSs. Some studies found those disturbances in the absence of clinical disorders. Both men and women reported similar frequencies of sleep disturbances, although posttraumatic stress disorder and depression were more frequent in women. Sleep laboratory studies provided the single most direct and detailed sources of information. Findings included a) long-standing changes in sleep architecture, for example, decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and b) contrasting patterns of dreaming and recall among better versus poorly adjusted survivors. These results are of importance to both HSs and their families and for medical and mental health professionals.

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