Fall can be an especially hectic time for farmers, with crops to harvest and manure to move, plus all the regular day-to-day work. This can mean long days, short nights, and a lack of much-needed sleep.

In recognition of this busy fall season, the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) shared the following advice on how to get better sleep and stay healthy. The reality is that many farmers and farm employees are never getting enough sleep, not just this time of year. Hopefully this information can help those individuals make the most of the resting time they have.

We know that fatigue and mental stress can raise the risk of mistakes and injuries on the farm. Adults who sleep less than seven and a half hours per night are more than twice as likely to be injured. Symptoms of fatigue include drowsiness, apathy, dizziness, headaches, vision impairment, poor concentration, slow reflexes, and changes in mood. UMASH shared that fatigued workers cost the U.S. $18 billion annually.

Easier said than done, but UMASH recommends prioritizing rest, recovery, and sleep. To get better sleep, it is advised to avoid caffeine eight hours before bedtime and alcohol four hours beforehand. Create a bedtime routine to train your brain to prepare for sleep. This could include reading or stretching. Avoid bright lights near bedtime and make your sleeping space relaxing. Try to avoid looking at a phone or computer screen at least 30 minutes before going to bed.

Actions taken during the day can also help improve your sleeping time. For starters, try to get up at the same time every day. If your job does not include much physical activity, incorporate some exercise during the day. Stretch your muscles when you have a chance because tense muscles can make it difficult to sleep.

A proper diet with adequate hydration can also help with energy levels. The basic food groups of grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat meat, and, of course, dairy, help fuel your body. Avoid too many processed foods that contain a lot of fat, salt, and sugar. Eat regular meals when you can and keep healthy snacks handy. It’s also very important to drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Have water accessible and avoid too many caffeinated or sugary beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration and fatigue.

Fatigue can also be linked to other medical conditions, such as depression, anemia, or a medication side effect. Schedule a physical exam with a doctor if you have not had one recently.

We can’t make more hours in the day, and sometimes more time to sleep isn’t an option. But before fatigue creates an even bigger problem, consider these tips and others from the UMASH website to help make the most of the sleep you get.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
November 16, 2023
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