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I have long had problems with sleep: I can take quite a long time to go to sleep, and then I am woken up at 4am when the planes start, at 6am when the birds sing their heads off and at 7am by the alarm, as well as all the other times I wake up for seemingly no purpose. I learned to sleep lightly when I had babies and never seemed to regain the ability to sleep solidly from night until morning.

I have tried various different techniques: going to bed earlier, going later, spending more time in bed reading or otherwise relaxing beforehand, being active before, turning on the light and reading when I can’t sleep or wake up. It doesn’t relate to the amount of physical activity I’ve had during the day or how tired I am.

Over the last month or so we’ve had Easter holidays and several long weekends and I’ve come to a realisation that should have hit me sooner: I sleep less well when it’s a school night; when I have to get up the next morning and work. During the holidays, I would go to sleep around midnight and wake up naturally about 8 or 9 in the morning, maybe having woken up once or twice briefly but feeling refreshed and ready for the day. So I was sleeping maybe an extra hour compared to a work night. At the end of this last long weekend I went to bed early, turned the light off at a reasonable time, and was still wide awake at 2 in the morning, not really worrying about anything in particular, but not asleep. The result of course was that the following day I felt sluggish and didn’t achieve what I wanted to on any levels.

So why? I’m not worrying about work as such. I have got better at listing the must-do for the next day as well as the it-would-be-nice-but-can-wait tasks so that I don’t spend the evening before thinking about what I’m going to do. I have got better at not worrying about all that I haven’t the time to do. If I’m lying in bed remembering something important, I add it on to my task list on my phone so I can stop worrying about forgetting it.

I do have to continue to work at letting things go and accepting that there are so many hours in the day and only so much that I can do in them. I also have to carry on trying to  prioritise doing things for me and my family over work. So why do I feel under so much pressure to Get Things Done such that even when I’m not consciously worrying about it underneath I’m panicking.

I feel pulled in several directions: that I should spend more time with my family and that I should spend more time working. I should spend more time doing housework and more time out and about. I should spend more time out socialising and more time looking after my children. I should go out more with them and I should go out more without them. I should read more; I should do more. I should take my children for more days out and trips; I should spend more time pottering around home.

I had a week away with 3son and 4son and I relaxed. I kept an eye on my emails but wasn’t expected to do any work and I didn’t. I spent lots of time playing and talking with my children, but we spent quite a few hours in pubs relaxing as well. I read a lot in the evening. I slept fairly well and had lots of energy. I didn’t feel the need to plan big days out; we just went with the flow and enjoyed ourselves. I cam back chilled and happier.

I need to carry on trying to take the pressure off myself, to accept my life as it is without giving in to all these expectations and demands that I cannot fulfil. It’s not just my parents’ critical voice I can hear telling me what I should do; it’s also society’s, telling me that I’m a single parent and that means a bad parent, that my children will fail at life and it will be all my fault.

Ending up talking about failure considering I started talking about sleep has surprised and shocked me. It’s not what I expected but why should I expect anything else?

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