Is death like falling asleep

As hard as Krupp steel -
Anxiety disorders of a generation of men of youth soldiers

Just don't fall asleep, otherwise death will come

Many old people struggle to fall asleep. It was "completely normal" for Mr R. too: he did not want to fall asleep. It was sitting in the TV room of the home and its eyes closed. But every time he nodded off, he jumped and his eyes widened convulsively. One of the house carers reported that he did everything possible in the evenings to delay the time to go to bed: “Like a little child”. But if you looked closely at how frightened his face looked when he struggled with sleep, a less harmless comparison suggested itself.

"In which year were you born?"

“I was born in 1928. I just turned 80. A good vintage, hard as Kruppstahl! ”He replied proudly.

“You were in the Hitler Youth?” (This was the slogan of the Hitler Youth).

"Yes," he said, "and then the full program."

The “full program” meant: At 16 he was drafted into the Wehrmacht, combat missions in Italy, then for the “final battle” on the Eastern Front and three years as a Russian captivity. "I was still reasonably strong and healthy, so I had to stay that long."

Did he have to stand guard often?

"Oh yeah. Often, I was always the youngest. Whether you were tired or not, you had to keep your eyes open. Otherwise you could be shot; and you also had to take care of your comrades. That was tough. "

63 years after the end of the war, Mr. R. was still programmed to "open his eyes". Falling asleep was dangerous, life threatening.

But not only such situations of standing guard in war meant the fight against falling asleep, there were also many other situations for soldiers and civilians, for the elderly and for the young, which made it necessary to fight the blow. Mr R. tells one of them:

“In the camp (during captivity) it was sometimes so cold that we weren't allowed to sleep. We had to stand and move. Anyone who fell and fell asleep was dead the next morning. "

For many refugees and displaced persons, it was also true that falling asleep was prohibited. Anyone who fell asleep could freeze to death, fall off the car as a child, miss the boat and the like. For many children and women, the dangers of the dark and the fear of rape added to this. That too can keep you awake, sometimes for a lifetime. Because of the bomb alarm, many people slept in the "watch out" position, as a woman described in a book about the bombing war:

“I half slept on my back so that my right ear was completely free. Even when I was asleep, I always had a feeling of listening. "

In addition, traumatic experiences increase basic arousal in many people, which can also impair sleep behavior.