Sleepless in Manitoba

By Lavonne Kroeker, PHEc

Recently, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services and Canadian Health and Safety in Agriculture held a series of workshops on the topic of sleep. Dr. Carlyle Smith spoke on all things sleep; how to get it, what is the result of not getting it and different sleep disorders. This “road show” across Manitoba attracted a lot of interest and was modelled after a similar series held in Saskatchewan.

The level of interest solidified the fact that lots of people struggle with sleep and my conversations with colleagues and family since the event have reemphasized that fact. Dr. Smith noted that we spend up to 25% of our lives sleeping if we live to be 75 years of age which is quite remarkable. For those who struggle with sleep, this is their wish!  Some of his suggestions for better sleep include establishing a pre-bedtime routine, turning off screens well before bedtime to give our bodies the signal that it is time for bed (no bright lights), sleeping with the window slightly open and having a light snack with both protein and carbohydrates. He also mentioned the benefits of napping which I loved to hear since napping is a regular part of my routine and he also said that if you do not fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of lying down it is best to get up for a bit rather than stressing about not falling asleep.

Dr. Smith talked about the harmful effects of sleep deprivation on our bodies and minds – in particular it negatively impacts our immune system, our ability to concentrate and our level of irritability. He went in depth to talk about the different cycles of sleep and how one begins to miss out on the most restorative sleep cycle as one ages and the negative effects of shift work on sleep.

In an effort to have a better sleep, some people take medications or supplements which Dr. Smith also addressed, advising caution and noting some skepticism about both of these approaches.  His recommendations are to change our lifestyle or in more extreme cases to engage in some stress management or professional counselling to address the issues impacting sleep.


As a professional home economist, Lavonne Kroeker has worked in a wide variety of settings – an adult learning centre, child welfare, private industry and government.  Her job involves “creating leaders” in rural communities – whether its supporting volunteer 4-H leaders, chairing a Safety Day committee, developing programming for women in business or organizing training for farm women, there is never a dull day!