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Alleviating Nightmares of Israel’s War-Traumatized Children

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Tel Aviv University to provide psychological relief for young victims of Hamas attacks.

The conflict that erupted in Israel on October 7, 2023, has wrought unimaginable devastation, leaving some of the most vulnerable victims children bereaved, homeless, or both. These young survivors, many of whom now find themselves in temporary accommodations across the country, sustained psychological injuries that require treatment both for immediate alleviation of suffering and for prevention of long-term post-traumatic stress and associated disorders.

A team of Tel Aviv University researchers, led by Dr. Michal Kahn from the School of Psychological Sciences, received funding from the TAU Emergency Fund to distribute 500 “DreamChanger” devices that Kahn helped develop during her postdoctoral fellowship. The device, which looks like a TV remote control, emits a calming blue light and has a button that kids can press when they want to “change their dreams.”

“We tell children that the DreamChanger can alter their dreams, akin to changing channels on a TV. The underlying therapeutic rationale is to foster their sense of agency, mastery and control, leveraging the children’s capacity forDr. Michal Kahn imagination by putting the power in their hands,” explains Kahn. “It could be an invaluable tool to help mitigate the impact of trauma-induced nightmares that many of these children may unfortunately experience.”

A recent randomized controlled trial has demonstrated the efficacy of the DreamChanger in reducing both the frequency of nightmares and nighttime anxiety. The promising results of this study, published in the scientific journal Sleep last year, underscore the device’s potential as a quick, accessible, and cost-effective intervention for children facing nighttime distress, Kahn says. (pictured at right)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Khan is a sleep researcher and licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in sleep development and insomnia. With her established connections to educational and mental health centers across Israel, she’s well-positioned to facilitate the distribution and implementation of the DreamChanger intervention. Numerous centers have already expressed interest in this approach, recognizing its potential to support children during these challenging times. A team of trained psychologists is prepared to administer the DreamChanger intervention. “Our current focus is on obtaining the necessary funds to deliver them to all of Israel’s children in need,” Kahn says.

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