Sleep disorders among holocaust survivors

Ido Lurie*, Itzhak Levav

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Second World War (WWII) ended in 1945, but for the Holocaust survivors (HS) the traumatic aftereffects regarding sleep and its disorders lingered through the decades.This chapter reviews selected publications regarding sleep, sleep disturbances, and nightmares. They are reviewed by period of publication: short- (within 10 years of WWII), middle- and late-term (since 2000). The studies were conducted in different countries, with different subgroups of HS, in different contexts (clinical settings, pension claims, community surveys and sleep laboratories), and with different methods of problem ascertainment.Most, but not all of the studies that were reviewed found that disturbances of different types characterize the sleep of HS. They seemed to have been present over the course of time, since the end of WWII to six decades afterwards. Some studies found those disturbances in the absence of clinical disorders but, probably, in the presence of subclinical conditions. Notably, both sexes reported equal frequencies of sleep disturbances (differences between the sexes were negligible), although PTSD and depression (frequent disorders among HS) are more frequent in women.Of the different contexts in which studies were conducted, the sleep laboratory provided the single most direct and detailed source of information. Findings included: (a) long-standing changes in sleep architecture, e.g., decreased REM sleep, and (b) contrasting patterns of dreaming and recalling among better-adjusted and poorly-adjusted survivors. However, since these studies were based on small samples and excluded HS with a psychiatric diagnosis, no generalization is possible with reference to larger and heterogeneous HS groups.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSleep and Combat-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781493971480
ISBN (Print)9781493971466
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Holocaust exposure
  • Holocaust survivors
  • Psychopathology
  • Second World War
  • Sleep disorders
  • Sleep disturbances


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