Battery requires recharge

Am I the only one who heads home after a trip away in a state of near exhaustion? I have just spent a very enjoyable weekend exploring a beautiful part of the country, but have woken up this morning feeling shattered. I used to believe that holidays were conceived to provide an opportunity for rest and recuperation; it would seem that I now need to come home for that to happen. It doesn’t help that I rarely sleep well in a strange bed, but this is more than just lack of sleep; this is wrung out and bone weary. On days like today I am so grateful that I do not need to go out to work.

When any member of my family is to stay away from home it is left up to me to sort out what needs to be taken. My eldest child will do her own packing, but everyone else expects me to fill their cases. Camping trips are the hardest to prepare for as we have to take absolutely everything that we will need whilst away. This is undoubtedly more straightforward now than when the children were younger as their entertainment needs are less bulky, but I still spend a lot of time checking through mental lists and trying to figure out what it is that I will forget on this trip. There is always something.

Having sorted out what needs to be taken and somehow squeezed it all into the required array of cases and boxes, it is transferred to the car where my husband will inevitably complain about the volume of stuff that I expect him to load. I have no idea how we would cope if we ever decided to fly away on holiday; we do not seem able to do minimalist packing. We will drive to our destination where I am left to unpack and set up our temporary home while the other members of the family explore their new surroundings. Our days will involve numerous long walks to places of interest, which we will investigate and examine until we run out of time. We will then go through the whole pack up and travel procedure again in order to head home.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy our family holidays. Having time to spend together out in the fresh air is very satisfying, as is the break from our normal routine. It is simply that I find the whole thing very wearing; the near constant activity coupled with the lack of sleep leaves me feeling drained of energy. Whilst away I seem to be able to keep going; it is amazing how enjoyment distracts us from the messages of need that our bodies send. On my return home these demands hit me and, in the worst cases such as this morning, it feels as though I have crashed.

Feeling as I do I am glad that I managed to complete most of the required post holiday tasks before I climbed into my own bed last night. Just as I am expected to do the packing, so it is left to me to unpack and put away all of the travel paraphernalia on our return. The mountain of laundry that I put through the washing machine and that is now adorning every hanging place in our house needs to be sorted, but the cases are emptied and stored away ready for next time and most of their contents have been returned from whence they came.

I do not resent being left to complete these tasks; everyone else in the family had to return to the routine of work and school today so it is only just that I should be the one to re-establish order. What bemuses me though is the common perception of a holiday being a time of rest and relaxation. Perhaps it is more the benefit of a change rather than a physical wind down that should be emphasised; or perhaps others do not fill their time away with activity as we do. I cannot imagine how my boys would cope with days spent idle; I suspect that my daughter may rather enjoy trying it.

This past weekend we managed a long, linear walk over the Quantock Hills to the coast and then along the cliffs to the seaside town of Minehead. My husband and son stopped to watch some of the cars start out on the Somerset Stages Rally before boarding a steam train on the West Somerset Railway back to our start point. On our second day we visited Dunster Castle and spent several hours exploring the buildings and grounds whilst learning about the history of the area. I will be mulling over the fascinating facts learnt for some time.

Today I will take it easy and appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do so. We had a lovely weekend of fine weather, good food and enjoyable activity; a few days of rest to recover from these exertions is a small price to pay for the happy memories. Life would be so much more dull if it were not interspersed from time to time with such breaks from the daily routine. I am grateful that we have the ability to offer ourselves such indulgences.



In need of a good sleep

Sleeping all the way through the night and then waking feeling rested is becoming a rarity. There are small things that I could do to help myself, but as often as not there seems to be no obvious reason why I am losing my ability to sleep well. It could be my age or my dietary habits, it could be disturbances from other family members or concerns running through my head. Whatever the reason, I am awake in the wee small hours too often. I cannot remember when I last enjoyed the recommended eight hours of sleep we are told that we require each night to maintain good health.

Sleep deprivation is one of the hardest challenges that new parents must face. Despite it being a common issue, there is rarely a great deal of sympathy from those who have been through it before. It is regarded as inevitable, just something to be got through. There is an ‘I coped and so must you’ attitude that can leave the new parent, already exhausted and unable to think clearly, feeling that they are failing if they do not carry on with some semblance of normality however wretched they feel. Sleep deprivation is a recognised method of torture yet those who suffer from it are expected to put up and shut up. It can exacerbate one’s susceptibility to a wide range of debilitating illnesses yet society will not generally take seriously the way a sufferer truly feels.

My elderly mother has complained of insomnia for many years. She has followed numerous suggestions in her quest for a good night’s sleep but still finds herself wide awake in the small hours of the morning unable to attain the rest she craves. As I grow older I hear many tales of woe from friends who are suffering from this complaint. It is so frustrating to lie in bed feeling tired yet be unable to sleep. Lifestyle choices, medication and stress have all been suggested as causes but these offer no real solution other than to make us feel that an inability to provide our bodies with healthful rest is somehow our fault. Whilst recognising that there is much that can be done to alleviate the problem, these factors do not always explain the whole story.

I am not an expert in anthropology but find it interesting when modern habits can be recognised in studies of our ancestors. Looking back at the role of the elderly in tribes I note that they were often tasked with night time guard duties. Their natural sleep patterns enabled them to sleep early then keep watch through the rest of the night. Napping periodically in the day allowed them to attain the rest they needed. I have never been able to sleep during the day, even when my children were babies, and can feel quite annoyed when my husband dozes off on the sofa after a big lunch at the weekend. Perhaps I should be more accepting of what may be a natural requirement as he ages. Perhaps I should be listening to my body and simply allowing myself a time of wakefulness at what seems like a most antisocial hour of the morning.

There are many avenues that I can explore in an attempt to combat my current sleep problems and I am hopeful that I can help myself to feel better by making some sensible choices to attain a few good nights of sleep. I suspect though that this issue is not one that is going to go away completely. Just as my eyesight is deteriorating and my joints ache for longer after exercise, I suspect that I will be more prone to night time wakefulness as I grow older. I am not ready to give in to the afternoon nap though. Not yet.

Blue alarm clock