There are those extra busy times on the farm like the coming seeding season where it’s all go. It may mean longer than normal hours and possible sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep not only reduces our ability to perform work effectively, it also reduces our ability to work safely.

Some have regarded sleep as a useless waste of time with no purpose - NOT TRUE.
Science and medicine are discovering more and more about the role of sleep, especially deep sleep, and its influence on our mental and physical wellbeing and health.

How much sleep do we really need? Eight hours seems to be the standard amount of sleep recommended at night but this is not true for everyone:

  • Infants and toddlers need most - 9 to 10 hours at night plus day naps;
  • School age including teenagers - do best with 9 to 11 hours at night;
  • Most adults - 7 to 8 hours a night;
  • Older adults need the same as younger adults but sleep lighter and for shorter periods than younger adults.

Some people just need fewer hours of six or less a night without ill effects. The need for less or even more sleep can run in families (suggesting a genetic basis).

What are the effects of lack of sleep? While we’re sleeping, our body is busy tending to our physical and mental health and getting us ready for another day. Lack of sleep leads into:-

  • Mood swings;
  • Drowsiness and irritability during the day;
  • Impaired judgement and reaction time;
  • Poor concentration, hinders memory, attention;
  • Poor physical coordination - dangerous accidents;
  • High blood pressure, heart disease;
  • Depression.

Regularly sleeping less than 5 hours is associated with poor physical health. There is a debate whether poor health causes lost sleep or lost sleep results in poor health?

Sleep may be more difficult to come by as we age and this can be traced to treatable health issues that cause interrupted sleep. Some factors that could cause sleep difficulties:-

  • Sleep disorders - sleep-apnoea, restless leg/arm syndrome, leg cramps;
  • Pain from conditions like arthritis, heartburn, back pain, headaches;
  • A frequent need to urinate;
  • Illness - depression, coughing, shortness of breath;
  • Medications - some medications can disrupt sleep;
  • Menopause - hot flushes, night sweats.

Some helpful tips for getting a good night’s sleep are:-

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, this synchronizes our body clock;
  • Aim for daily exercise before evenings;
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol;
  • Relax before bed i.e. warm shower/bed or reading;
  • Keep bedroom quiet, dark and a comfortable temperature;
  • Use bedroom/bed only for sleeping or intimacy - not as a lounge room for watching TV, studying i.e. the bed is associated with sleeping;
  • Follow medication advices.

As a general rule, if we can’t sleep, we shouldn’t lie in bed. Leave the bedroom and do a quiet activity that doesn’t stimulate us.

To help maintain a healthy lifestyle we all need to contemplate “what is an adequate amount of sleep for us personally” and visit our GP for treatment if we are amassing a huge “sleep debt”.

Tim and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
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