There are times of the year where hours of sleep are few and the days are long. As farmers and ranchers check on the livestock, plant the crop, and try to cover as many acres in a day as possible, sleep deprivation becomes a consequence of getting the job done. But not getting enough rest can be dangerous; common side effects of sleep deprivation are: moodiness, lack of focus, impaired performance, and increased risk taking, to name just a few.
When planting or haying conditions are ideal, we all know that it’s time to roll and you don’t always get the ideal eight to nine hours of sleep. Power naps, then, could be a great way to help you fight your weekly sleep debt.
“But I don’t have time to nap!” — so many farmers, probably
Think back to when you were a kid growing up on the farm and you would all gather in the house or in the field for lunch. What did dad do after he ate? He probably napped. Why can’t you?
Check out the picture (above) of my grandfather John Mehalko having a summer after lunch nap in the grass beside the house. I have asked my grandma about this and she said, “they worked hard everyday, they needed to rest sometimes.” Did the farmers before us know something that we forgot? It’s very possible.
What the experts say:
- According to sleep expert Neil Stanley, your nap should not exceed 20 minutes to prevent entering a deeper sleep cycle. This will prevent you from feeling worse when you wake up.
- With altered alertness being one of the drawbacks of lack of sleep, some farm safety risks could be managed by taking up napping. In fact, NASA conducted a study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts and found a 40-minute nap improved their performance by 34 percent and alertness by 100 percent.
- Use an alarm to make sure your nap time time doesn’t go longer than intended.
- You can only drink so much coffee and Red Bull in a day to keep you alert.
- Feeling rested will curb food cravings (to help battle another side-effect of the growing season).
What Farmers Say: Do you nap during the growing season?
- Jeff Nonay, Alberta grain and dairy farmer: “I love power naps. I try to have a great one once a week or twice on a great week. I am fortunate that 15 minute nap can be great, but I personally prefer 30-45 minutes to really recover.”
- Mark Brock, Ontario grain farmer: “As I get older I take fewer risks. I prefer to start earlier in the morning and work less late at night. It was always my dad that would come in for lunch and have a 10 to 15 minute power nap everyday.”
- Kent Erickson, Alberta-based farmer: “Yes, occasionally and usually in the sprayer mid morning or early afternoon for 10 minutes to refresh.”
- Peter Gredig, Ontario grain farmer: “Not when it’s the busy season, but as I get older I track how many days in a row I go longer than 14 hours. Unless there is a weather threat or just need an extra hour to finish the field I shut it down at 14 to 15 hours. When I’m working in the office I find 20 minute naps (no longer, or it turns into a coma) resets my mental sharpness.”
Types of Naps
According to the National Sleep Foundation there are three types of napping. Any of the three would be a great addition to your sleep deprivation reality.
- Planned napping (also called preparatory napping) involves taking a nap before you actually get sleepy. You may use this technique when you know that you will be up later than your normal bed time or as a mechanism to ward off getting tired earlier.
- Emergency napping occurs when you are suddenly very tired and cannot continue with the activity you were originally engaged in. This type of nap can be used to combat drowsy driving or fatigue while using heavy and dangerous machinery.
- Habitual napping is practiced when a person takes a nap at the same time each day. This is what dad did everyday after lunch. It becomes a person’s routine.