A new study by Hunter New England (HNE) Health will investigate the link between Australian farmers' sleep and workplace fatalities and suicide rates.
The 'Farming and Rural workers Sleep Health' (FRESH) study is seeking to better understand farmers' sleep habits and sleeping issues, as well as better understanding the work habits and general health and wellbeing of farmers.
HNE Health said the study involves an online survey which includes questions about farm demographics, sleeping habits, general and mental health and workplace accidents.
Dr Gemma Paech, the study lead and senior sleep scientist at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital, said farming is an inherently risky profession and a disproportionate number of farmers suffer from poor mental health.
"Despite evidence suggesting that sleep plays an important role in the wellbeing and health of farmers, there is limited evidence examining the sleep quantity and quality of Australian farmers," Dr Paech said.
"Most existing research is predominately subjective in nature, and has not always investigated the prevalence of sleep disorders and the impact of sleep on mental health."
Dr Paech said the agricultural industry accounts for 17 per cent of worker fatalities in Australia and rates of suicide are also higher in farmers compared to other occupations.
"While these adverse health outcomes can be explained by several factors, poor sleep may play an important role," Dr Paech said.
According to HNE Health, the link between sleep and health is well documented, with sleep loss contributing to poor performance, decreased mood and an increased risk of developing adverse health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
"Previous research has shown farmers who get less than seven hours sleep have an increased risk of injury and older farmers who report poor sleep quality have higher depressive symptoms," HNE Health said in a statement.
"Farmers may also have untreated and undiagnosed sleep disorders such as insomnia and/or sleep apnoea.
"During times of stress, symptoms of insomnia can become exacerbated and may develop into a chronic problem."
HNE Health said participants in the study should be more than 18 years of age and work on a farm for eight or more hours a week.
Participants can access the survey online through HNE Health.