Fight fatigue, stress on the farm with sleep for better bottom line

  • Published: Friday, April 30, 2021

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Long hours during calving and planting seasons can cause fatigue and stress, leading to accidents and costly mistakes, says Mary Engram, University of Missouri Extension human development specialist.

“Lack of sleep affects us physically and mentally,” says Engram.

During May, Better Sleep Month, remember that farm safety and the bottom line depend on good sleep, especially when handling animals or equipment, says Karen Funkenbusch, MU Extension health and safety specialist. Not getting enough sleep can have a steep cost: big medical expenses, reduced productivity, lost work hours and damaged equipment.

Fatigue tells the body that it needs rest from physical, mental and emotional demands, Engram says. Symptoms of fatigue include dizziness, headaches, vision problems, poor balance, reduced concentration and mood changes.

Good sleep keeps the body healthy. “During sleep, the body and mind repair from the day’s activities, memories are organized, and energy is renewed,” she says. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. Teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night.

Quantity of sleep matters, but so does the quality. Insomnia, snoring and nightmares can mean poor sleep. If you experience these problems often, talk with a health care professional, Engram says.

Engram offers tips to avoid fatigue on the farm:

• Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

• Create a relaxing bedtime routine.

• Keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark.

• Use a supportive, comfortable mattress and pillows.

• Finish meals two to three hours before bedtime.

• Exercise regularly.

• Limit alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, especially near bedtime.

• Drink plenty of water and plan meals to avoid last-minute choices that may not be healthy.

• Balance and prioritize farming activities with family, community and church events.

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center offers a free checklist to assess farm fatigue at

MU Extension’s Show-Me Strong Families program provides resources for farm families dealing with natural disasters, stress and mental health issues. Learn more at

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Writer: Linda Geist

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Mary Engram

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