FarmSafe Podcast: Sleep
A discussion about sleep in agricultual settings
It’s harvest season and during this busy time, farmers and ranchers may not be getting much sleep. In this episode we talked to Susan Harris from Nebraska Extension, and Amanda Prokasky, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, to talk about the importance of sleep and how the quality and quantity of farmers’ and ranchers’ sleep is affected throughout the year. "Anybody with any association with the agricultural industry knows that sleep is much different for Ag workers and producers than it is for most of the general population, because there are periods of time throughout the year where they're far busier."
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[00:00:05.630]Welcome to the FarmSafe podcast,
[00:00:07.540]brought to you by the Great Plains Center
[00:00:09.050]for Agricultural Health.
[00:00:10.930]In the blink of an eye
[00:00:11.840]an injury can change your life and your farm forever.
[00:00:14.830]During each episode, we share firsthand stories
[00:00:17.400]and real life tips for making safer
[00:00:19.160]and healthier decisions while on the farm.
[00:00:22.480]In this episode, we're going to talk about sleep.
[00:00:25.020]It's harvest season and during this busy time,
[00:00:27.230]farmers and ranchers may not be getting much sleep.
[00:00:32.840]We asked our listeners
[00:00:33.710]how they manage their sleep this time of year.
[00:00:36.250]This is what one Iowa farmer had to say.
[00:00:39.330]How do I manage my sleep during harvest?
[00:00:45.080]To learn more about this topic,
[00:00:46.550]I sat down with Susan Harris
[00:00:48.090]who works with Nebraska Extension
[00:00:50.200]and Amanda Prokasky,
[00:00:51.490]a researcher from the University of Nebraska Medical Center,
[00:00:54.650]to talk about the importance of sleep
[00:00:56.840]and about their research project they're working on
[00:00:58.960]to understand how the quality
[00:01:00.650]and quantity of farmers and ranchers sleep
[00:01:02.850]is affected throughout the year.
[00:01:07.090]Hi, I'm Susan Harris.
[00:01:08.480]I am the Rural Health Wellness and Safety educator
[00:01:11.370]for Nebraska Extension.
[00:01:14.090]And I am Amanda Prokasky.
[00:01:15.910]I am an Assistant Professor
[00:01:17.610]in the Education and Child Development Department
[00:01:19.910]at the Munroe-Meyer Institute
[00:01:21.600]at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
[00:01:24.910]Amanda and I are interested in sleep.
[00:01:27.850]The process of sleep, how it affects us,
[00:01:30.530]how much sleep is everyone getting
[00:01:32.300]and what that does when we don't get sleep.
[00:01:34.570]And we have collaborated on a project that's funded by
[00:01:38.460]Central States Center for Ag Safety and Health
[00:01:41.360]to do this study involving
[00:01:43.400]agricultural worker populations in Nebraska
[00:01:45.710]and surrounding states
[00:01:46.810]to see what their sleep habits are
[00:01:48.660]during their busiest times and during their other times.
[00:01:52.960]So to start, why is sleep so important?
[00:01:56.100]I always like to tell people
[00:01:57.470]that you should think of sleep as this umbrella
[00:02:00.280]that's protecting everything in your life and your body.
[00:02:05.520]It impacts your function with physical health,
[00:02:07.940]with mental health, emotional health, safety.
[00:02:11.710]So many things that sleep does for us,
[00:02:14.440]that a lot of us don't even realize.
[00:02:17.310]It has all of these systems in place when you're asleep
[00:02:20.500]that are taking care of your nerve function, your organs.
[00:02:23.320]It's repairing your muscles from the daily activity.
[00:02:27.430]And it's also making us smarter.
[00:02:29.090]There's this process called consolidation,
[00:02:31.400]where it takes things that you learned during the day
[00:02:33.540]and cements them into your brain.
[00:02:34.920]Whereas when you don't get that sleep,
[00:02:36.550]things are going to be flying out of your head.
[00:02:38.920]You're not going to remember them as well.
[00:02:41.110]And it also has an impact on safety
[00:02:44.050]in terms of how we make judgment calls.
[00:02:46.280]If we do get good sleep versus we don't get the sleep,
[00:02:49.000]which is extremely important to personalize
[00:02:51.080]of farmers and ranchers.
[00:02:52.210]And when they're not making good judgments
[00:02:54.370]and you are not being as safe as you could be,
[00:02:57.830]that could lead to injuries.
[00:03:01.580]How much sleep do we need
[00:03:03.000]to get all of these amazing benefits
[00:03:04.980]that you just mentioned?
[00:03:06.840]When you say we, as adults,
[00:03:09.870]most of us need seven to eight hours per night.
[00:03:12.470]There are those few of us who can function on less.
[00:03:15.640]And there are many of us who say that we can,
[00:03:19.970]the studies have shown that those who say that
[00:03:23.060]are probably just functioning on high caffeine intake
[00:03:27.200]and then not getting enough sleep
[00:03:28.790]and then high caffeine intake.
[00:03:30.070]And it's sort of,
[00:03:31.080]they're not letting their bodies do the processes
[00:03:33.410]that they need to do.
[00:03:34.340]They're just surviving.
[00:03:35.410]They're just getting through their day.
[00:03:37.090]Really most of us should have seven to eight hours.
[00:03:39.700]Now the misconception that a lot of parents have
[00:03:42.240]that I have found
[00:03:43.073]is that they don't understand their children
[00:03:44.530]need so much more than this.
[00:03:45.990]And Amanda might be able to speak well to that topic
[00:03:48.340]because she's done some research on this.
[00:03:50.100]And the sad fact is,
[00:03:51.480]the CDC tells us
[00:03:52.500]that they are not getting those hours of sleep.
[00:03:55.530]Yeah, I guess I would just add that,
[00:03:57.620]echoing back to what Susan was saying.
[00:04:00.350]You know, most adults do need about
[00:04:02.290]seven to eight hours of sleep,
[00:04:03.750]but it is individualized.
[00:04:05.710]It can be highly variable in between people.
[00:04:08.920]And she's right in that,
[00:04:11.090]the sleep needs across the age span are also different.
[00:04:15.040]Infants need 16 to 18 hours of sleep a day.
[00:04:17.520]Toddlers, 11 to 14, et cetera.
[00:04:19.890]And so you get this gradual increase of sleep needs
[00:04:24.500]And then once you kind of enter early adulthood,
[00:04:27.170]then those needs kind of decrease back to the eight, nine,
[00:04:31.010]you know, or seven to eight hour range.
[00:04:34.580]Can we talk more about what happens
[00:04:36.640]when we don't get enough sleep?
[00:04:38.830]Susan, I heard you talking about this before
[00:04:41.360]and you were comparing the effects of lack of sleep
[00:04:43.590]to being intoxicated.
[00:04:44.940]And I thought that was really interesting.
[00:04:47.710]Yeah, one of my favorites that gets attention
[00:04:50.350]is how being awake for a certain number of hours
[00:04:55.770]is equivalent or similar to how you would behave
[00:05:00.320]if you were drinking.
[00:05:02.460]And so there have been several studies done on this
[00:05:05.220]and the hours and the minutes vary just a little bit,
[00:05:09.210]but overall about 21 hours of being awake
[00:05:13.020]equals the legal intoxication level for Nebraska,
[00:05:15.470]which is 0.08.
[00:05:16.760]Meaning if you've pulled an all nighter
[00:05:18.840]and you haven't slept at all in 24 hours, you're wasted.
[00:05:22.110]You know, it's a big warning that I like to give people,
[00:05:24.360]especially those in the farming industry
[00:05:26.240]who are up all night.
[00:05:27.970]Think about that.
[00:05:28.803]You are out there drunk making decisions
[00:05:31.250]and doing things that could be dangerous.
[00:05:35.160]Operating heavy machinery
[00:05:37.730]not a good idea to do when you're
[00:05:39.904](Susan and Amanda laugh)
[00:05:41.930]Something that I have found predominantly
[00:05:43.950]when I teach these programs,
[00:05:46.130]is the reliance on sleeping pills or melatonin.
[00:05:50.300]Wow, a lot of people do that.
[00:05:52.000]And you know, I,
[00:05:53.483]I would like to hope that they would
[00:05:55.810]maybe opt for some more natural ways
[00:05:57.750]of regulating the sleep cycle.
[00:05:58.960]You know, the sun,
[00:06:00.240]just getting that light in the morning
[00:06:02.320]and throughout the day
[00:06:03.153]has a lot to do with how we sleep at night.
[00:06:05.110]And these are things that maybe people don't think about.
[00:06:07.410]Taking a pill, it just shouldn't be the answer.
[00:06:09.610]And it can have a lot of consequences that we don't like,
[00:06:12.770]like that dependency, dizziness, it's not real sleep.
[00:06:16.190]It's not allowing your body to do what it should do.
[00:06:18.800]It might make you just back where you didn't want to be
[00:06:21.360]the next day in that groggy
[00:06:23.860]sort of hangover effect position.
[00:06:27.640]Right, and so then it turns into a cycle, right?
So you're using caffeine
[00:06:31.390]throughout the day to keep yourself awake
[00:06:33.880]while you use too much caffeine
[00:06:35.270]so you need a pill to help you fall asleep,
[00:06:37.410]which causes you to be groggy the next day.
[00:06:39.960]And so you're on the caffeine again.
[00:06:41.580]And so it's, it's a cycle that,
[00:06:43.080]that is really, really difficult to break.
[00:06:46.590]You both work a lot with farm workers
[00:06:48.283]and you have this study.
[00:06:49.850]Could you talk about what obstacles farmers
[00:06:52.120]and ranchers face when it comes to sleep?
[00:06:55.060]Anybody with any association
[00:06:57.450]with the agricultural industry
[00:06:59.390]knows that sleep is much different for ag workers
[00:07:03.950]and producers than it is for most of the general population,
[00:07:07.520]because there are periods of time
[00:07:09.320]throughout the year where they're far busier.
[00:07:12.140]At calving season, for example,
[00:07:14.200]farmers and ranchers may be up every two hours
[00:07:16.910]throughout the night checking calves.
[00:07:18.370]And so they're not sleeping through the night.
[00:07:20.340]You know, again, planting and harvest times are also
[00:07:23.590]periods where farmers may be getting up
[00:07:26.210]really early and being in the fields all day long
[00:07:29.200]until really late well past dark.
[00:07:31.620]And so they're getting a much lower amount of time
[00:07:34.480]to actually sleep.
[00:07:35.620]As opposed to those times throughout the year,
[00:07:38.980]when maybe it's haying season,
[00:07:41.200]you know, they may still be working all day in the fields,
[00:07:43.950]but the constraints on their sleep period
[00:07:47.470]aren't as great or in the winter time
[00:07:49.660]when there's not as much to do,
[00:07:51.840]they may be able to get more sleep during those periods.
[00:07:56.378]A couple of years ago at a farm show,
[00:07:57.860]a farmer shared the following story with us.
[00:08:00.940]I got rear ended by a sleeping or drowsy driver.
[00:08:04.060]Sometimes during harvest, we have to work late.
[00:08:06.890]And that is one of the risks.
[00:08:09.724]I shared the story with Susan and Amanda,
[00:08:11.580]and asked if they thought this was a common issue.
[00:08:13.640]And if it's something that they would expect to hear about.
[00:08:17.810]I was just looking through my pictures the other day
[00:08:19.630]that I have and I took one in Utah
[00:08:22.230]where they actually have signs
[00:08:23.660]that say fatigued drivers pull over to the side of the road.
[00:08:27.130]It happens that often,
[00:08:29.323]There are so many more accidents
[00:08:30.210]as a result of sleepy driving
[00:08:31.920]than there are as a result of drunk driving.
So, not surprising at all.
[00:08:35.990]And it's certainly,
[00:08:37.820]it happens a lot more than what people think.
[00:08:40.200]And if you think about particularly in rural areas
[00:08:44.010]where you've got, you know,
[00:08:45.610]maybe a really long stretch of highway,
[00:08:48.690]and you're not seeing a lot of drivers coming your way,
[00:08:52.100]so it's just even so much more dangerous, you know,
[00:08:55.273]because you don't have the stimulus of other drivers
[00:08:58.590]around you kind of jerking you awake.
[00:09:02.440]Unfortunately that's happens way more than it should.
[00:09:06.010]What recommendations do you have
[00:09:07.440]about how we can get better sleep?
[00:09:10.240]Well, I have compiled my 30 best tips and tricks,
[00:09:13.980]and those can be found at go.unl.edu/sleeptips.
[00:09:21.450]There's also a youth version,
[00:09:22.740]which has the same, go.unl.edu/sleepy.
[00:09:26.340]And the top three that make
[00:09:29.470]a big impact that many people don't know about.
[00:09:33.040]Number one is that light.
[00:09:35.670]I'm sitting here right now with my phototherapy light on
[00:09:38.360]which I've had on all morning
[00:09:39.750]because it's kind of cloudy today
[00:09:41.540]and it's kind of dark in my office
[00:09:43.160]and I want that light to come into my eyes
[00:09:45.830]in the morning so that I'm not lying awake in bed tonight.
[00:09:48.697]That light has a huge impact on how we sleep.
[00:09:53.910]Many people don't understand that
[00:09:55.480]sleeping in a cool room helps you sleep better.
[00:09:58.890]Our bodies have to cool down in order to sleep well.
[00:10:02.840]That that cooling is the signal to the brain
[00:10:04.960]that it's time to produce the melatonin and get to sleep.
[00:10:07.700]So 60 to 68 degrees sounds really chilly,
[00:10:12.080]but a cool dark cave is where we need to be sleeping.
[00:10:17.210]That and the consistent wake up time.
[00:10:20.730]Super important to set that whole circadian
[00:10:23.720]clock in your body.
[00:10:25.330]Good sleep hygiene,
[00:10:26.540]which involves a consistent routine in the evenings,
[00:10:29.530]a consistent wake up time in the mornings,
[00:10:31.960]cutting off caffeine after 6:00 PM,
[00:10:35.330]cutting off your exposure to blue light,
[00:10:37.550]so cell phones, tablets, television, you know,
[00:10:40.650]at least an hour, if not two before bed.
[00:10:43.350]To help ease that transition into sleep.
[00:10:46.140]The problem, particularly for farmers
[00:10:48.330]and ranchers that we are seeing
[00:10:49.780]is that it's really hard to have a consistent schedule
[00:10:52.070]throughout the year
[00:10:53.070]because of their particular work schedule.
[00:10:55.730]So I just want to add that
[00:10:58.750]all of your sleep does not have to be at night.
[00:11:01.890]So if you're only getting four hours of sleep at night,
[00:11:04.500]because it's harvest season,
[00:11:06.240]try to catch up and take some naps during the day.
[00:11:09.790]I mean, getting your sleep at night is the most optimal,
[00:11:13.150]but if you're not able to do that due to your work schedule,
[00:11:16.430]what's really important is getting that seven to eight hours
[00:11:19.580]in a 24 hour period, right?
[00:11:21.460]So if you can't get it all at night,
[00:11:23.530]take a couple of naps during the day.
[00:11:25.580]If your schedule allows, try to catch up,
[00:11:28.440]just so you're not finding yourself in that situation
[00:11:31.370]where you're up 21 hours and then all of a sudden,
[00:11:34.430]you know, intoxicated trying to do your job.
[00:11:37.810]So now can you talk a little about how your research
[00:11:40.870]and your study fits in what this issue
[00:11:42.950]of farming and lack of sleep?
[00:11:45.080]Farmers and ranchers specifically,
[00:11:47.400]because of their work schedule and the nature of their work,
[00:11:50.800]there's times when it's just not possible
[00:11:54.050]to get a sufficient amount of sleep.
[00:11:55.770]And so we were really interested in understanding,
[00:11:58.400]is there actually a true difference between the amount
[00:12:02.950]and quality of sleep that farmers
[00:12:04.522]and ranchers are getting
[00:12:06.720]during their busy peak production seasons,
[00:12:09.820]calving, planting, harvesting,
[00:12:11.890]and those non-peak seasons, you know,
[00:12:13.900]maybe early summer or during the winter.
[00:12:16.970]Then the next step is to really investigate.
[00:12:19.720]Okay, is there something that we can do?
[00:12:21.560]I mean, we can't change the seasons, right?
[00:12:24.290]We can't change when calves are born,
[00:12:27.000]but are there other ways that maybe we can
[00:12:30.080]figure out how to improve the quality and quantity of sleep
[00:12:34.140]that farmers and ranchers are getting
[00:12:35.590]during those really busy times?
[00:12:37.400]With the hopes of being able to identify
[00:12:40.970]if there is a way to either develop educational programs
[00:12:45.450]or outreach or something like that,
[00:12:47.700]to help farmers and ranchers get more
[00:12:50.390]and better sleep throughout the year.
[00:12:53.580]Overall, what I have found nationally in Extension
[00:12:57.190]is that there is no sleep programming.
[00:13:00.660]I really looked and looked and looked before I began
[00:13:03.340]this type of programming and it is just not out there.
[00:13:06.200]You know, we promote nutrition,
[00:13:07.810]we promote physical activity,
[00:13:10.350]but we haven't yet promoted sleep.
[00:13:12.890]In Nebraska, we've been doing that now for several years
[00:13:15.310]and we're serving as an example to the rest of the country.
[00:13:18.770]And I'm really excited to look at these data
[00:13:21.820]and use them to help formulate more education.
[00:13:26.160]And part of our study too,
[00:13:27.710]that we didn't mention is more subjective.
[00:13:31.240]talking to our participants to say,
[00:13:33.220]if we do this kind of education for you
[00:13:35.700]to help you learn more about sleep
[00:13:37.620]and how to get better sleep, how can we best reach you?
[00:13:39.700]What's the best way to do that?
[00:13:41.290]And so that will be very helpful.
[00:13:43.120]Because we know that farming
[00:13:44.360]and ranching is one of the more dangerous occupations
[00:13:47.260]with a high rate of accident and injury.
[00:13:49.740]And so this is really about
[00:13:51.710]investing in the health and safety
[00:13:54.910]of our agricultural workers.
[00:13:57.770]We have provided links to additional resources
[00:13:59.840]in the episode resource section of our website.
[00:14:02.760]Check out the link
[00:14:03.790]to Susan's tips and tricks for good sleep
[00:14:05.610]that she mentioned in this episode.
[00:14:07.160]Listen in to the FarmSafe podcast
[00:14:09.750]to join in the conversation about keeping safe on the farm.
[00:14:13.450]We want to hear from you.
[00:14:14.590]Share your stories about health
[00:14:15.667]and safety issues on the farm,
[00:14:17.480]about injuries that made you change the way you work,
[00:14:19.740]or about the ways you keep yourself
[00:14:21.260]and other states on your farm.
[00:14:23.190]Also let us know if there's questions you have
[00:14:24.940]or topics that you want to hear about on the air.
[00:14:27.090]You can visit our website at gpcah.org or email us.
[00:14:34.700]Original music for the FarmSafe podcast
[00:14:36.700]was written and performed by Ben Schmidt.
[00:14:39.340]This work was funded
[00:14:40.173]by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[00:14:42.400]as part of the National Institute
[00:14:43.990]for Occupational Safety and Health's
[00:14:45.810]Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health.
[00:14:48.224](gentle music continues)
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