Specialist: A well-rested farmer is a safer one
Consistent sleep habits are just as important as getting adequate sleep.
Published: Aug 24, 2012
The drought is causing sleepless nights and thus potentially more dangerous days for many Illinois farmers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns financially related stress related to drought can cause depression, anxiety, or other “mental and behavioral health conditions."
Sudden sleep “disorders” or disruptions -- insomnia, middle-of-the-night wakefulness, or excessive sleeping -- are key signs that worry and anxiety have come into play. And when anxiety, depression, and resulting fatigue strike at harvest time, the result can be lethal.
“Anyone who’s acutely worried about whether they’ll have money in a few months if the crop fails certainly could have some short-term insomnia,” advises George Haake, a registered polysomnigraphic technologist and manager of Bloomington’s Midwest Center for Sleep Medicine.
“How do you treat that? It’s tricky. If insomnia’s going on just because you’re worried or stressed, a physician might give you sleep aids. Some physicians may say to muscle through it, maybe refer the patient to a therapist.
True insomniacs have deep, long-term issues that aren’t situational. They may need to see a therapist.”
Setting consistent sleep habits is as important as getting adequate sleep, Haake suggests. He stresses the importance of maintaining regular sleep hours: A farmer accustomed to sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. should stick to that schedule even at the peak of harvest, if possible.
And the bedroom should be “a cool, quite, comfortable room for sleep,” insists Haake, who advises against reading or especially watching TV in bed. The sleep specialist recommends curtailing coffee or other caffeine-based drinks after noon or, in the case of a chronic insomniac, entirely.
Late-evening exercise, even after a day of fieldwork, contributes to sounder sleep, Haake argues. Daytime naps are not a good idea -- “You can start a vicious cycle where your sleep’s all over the place,” he told FarmWeek.
Taking a field break for a noon-time meal is a good idea, both to break up the potential monotony of harvest and to reduce the urge to eat late and heavily at the end of a hard day’s work. A short post-lunch nap is acceptable if the farmer has experienced no night-time sleep issues.
Unfortunately, the tractor or combine cab can be “an excellent place to get sleepy,” given the droning rhythm and vibrations of harvest activity, Haake acknowledges. An in-cab radio or other non-distracting audio feedback can help farmers maintain their “natural sleep rhythm” without nodding off behind the wheel, he says.
“The easiest time to rectify insomnia is right when it starts,” Haake concludes. “The further you fall down that hole, the harder it is to correct.”
Permalink: Click here