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AustralianFarmers

Getting some good shut-eye isn’t as easy as it sounds

Are you lying next to a restless farmer each night? Are you one of these sleepless farmers? You are not alone in your struggle to get some good shut-eye.

There are multiple studies around the world showing how great a good eight hours sleep can be for your mental and physical health as well as work productivity.

However, the multi-faceted pressures and demands farmers face on a daily basis, particularly in these trying times of drought, can cause an undesirable recipe for sleep deprivation and insomnia.

According to the National Centre for Farmer Health, lack of sleep can be caused by multiple factors including (but not limited to):

  • financial stress (particularly during difficult economic and environmental conditions)
  • worry over family or business problems
  • undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia
  • pain (for example, headaches or injuries)
  • grief
  • medications
  • eating or drinking too close to bedtime
An active and worrying mind can lead to sleepless nights and unhappy days.

Dr Andrew Vakulin, a research fellow at the Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health at Flinders University, said poor sleep due to sleep disorders (sleep apnea or insomnia) or work related factors/pressures have a negative impact on cognitive function, cardio-metabolic function and mental health.

“Alertness, concentration, memory and balance can be negatively affected after a restless nights sleep. While a physical toll on your body can become present through weight gain, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” Dr Vakulin said.

Moodiness, depression and anxiety are also significant symptoms of how sleep deprivation can impact ones mental health.

A 2015 study on Chinese farmers reported a 59% increased risk of injuries in farmers who slept less than 6 hours per night while another report, which analysed emerging risk factors for agricultural injuries, stated that sleeping less than seven hours a night was one of the highest risk factors causing workplace injuries.

How to get more sleep?

During peak and harvest seasons getting enough sleep in a 24 hour day can be impossible.

“It would require a significant change in culture and how the business operates to free up more time for sleep. In most circumstances that is just not a viable choice for farmers,” Dr Vakulin siad.

Working hours during harvest season can be inconsistent and long, meaning less time for sleep.

To get better quality restorative sleep during the available time the following suggestions may help:

  • Avoid caffeine in the evening (tea, coffee, cola, ‘energy’ drinks, etc.)
  • Do something you find relaxing before you go to bed (don’t go to bed straight after doing the farm accounts for hours!)
  • Get up at the same time every morning regardless of how long you have slept
  • Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle
  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime
  • Don’t nap during the day
  • Get some exercise during the day, but not just before bedtime
  • Avoid screen time just before bed (TV, phone, tablet, etc.)
  • Learn some meditation techniques to help you relax at bedtime
  • Write down whatever is worrying you before you go to bed to help you to put things aside until morning
  • Try to leave your problems at the bedroom door.

For more information visit:

The Sleep Health Foundation 

The Australian Sleep Association 

Referenced literature:

Relationship Between Sleep Loss and Economic Worry Among Farmers A Survey of 94 Active Saskatchewan Noncorporate Farms

The Association of Sleep Loss and Balance Stability in Farmers

Association between lack of sleep and injuries in farmers

The Relationship Between Fatigue-Related Factors and Work-Related Injuries

Andrea Martinello

Andrea Martinello

Andrea is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

1 comment

  • Hi All!

    Sleep Tips…

    1. Ensure the bedroom is at a temperature that will allow sleep suited to the individual needs.

    2. Try to sleep on the side of your body and not your back. This will help not to obstruct the air ways.

    3. Remedy any noise outbreaks like barking dogs when there is no cause for concern.

    4. No (or low) sugar in drinks during hot weather especially close to bedtime.

    Gary Jackson
    Biomedical and Electrical Engineer.
    S&TI. Engineering (Aust.)

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