Conor Pope

Irish Times journalist Conor Pope (45) gets up at about 7.30am on weekdays and is rarely in bed before midnight. He reckons he eats quite healthily apart from a penchant for crisps and coffee.

Conor Pope. Photograph : Matt Kavanagh / THE IRISH TIMES

Conor Pope. Photograph : Matt Kavanagh / THE IRISH TIMES

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 11:17

Irish Times journalist Conor Pope (45) gets up at about 7.30am on weekdays and is rarely in bed before midnight. He reckons he eats quite healthily apart from a penchant for crisps and coffee. “I usually eat porridge for breakfast when I eat with my children who are seven and five. On other mornings, I don’t eat breakfast but I don’t snack during the day. I’ll have soup with bread for lunch and crisps. Crisps are my curse really and I drink at least two large Americano coffees a day although I never drink coffee after 2pm. I eat dinner around 8pm three or four nights a week,” he explains. He also admits to drinking more units of alcohol per week than is advisable.

Pope describes his approach to exercise as faddish. “I’ve done running, boot camp, bikram yoga and now I do exercise classes in the gym. I cycle to work each day too so I’m fairly fit.”

His interest in partaking in the sleep study is because he frequently wakes in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. “I almost always wake up at 4am. I can’t remember the last time I slept solidly for eight hours. I don’t consider myself stressed but I have dreams of falling and dying after which I wake up in a panic sitting bolt upright. Sometimes, I stay awake for an hour and sometimes, I fall back asleep in five minutes. The problem with this early morning waking is that I watch the clock and I turn to Twitter on my phone.”

Dr John Faul is a respiratory physician and sleep specialist at the Hermitage Medical Clinic. During the Sleep Challenge he will be providing practical input on how people can improve their sleep.

Dr Faul comments: Conor appears to function on very little sleep. Most people would be tired if they were asked to get up at 7:30am each morning, but were not allowed to go to bed before midnight.  7.5 hours in bed might only produce 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep. Craving carbohydrates is a classic symptom of sleep deprivation. Strong coffee can help you through your day, but coffee irritates the heart and stomach and increases your blood pressure. Conor tends to eat very late and this is probably preventing him from winding down to sleep before midnight. It is normal to awaken frequently during the night, but most people can't remember whether they awoke or not.  It is wise to not look at a clock and not turn to electronic media - Conor recognizes that the electronic screens keep him awake.  Conor's circadian clock might be telling him to arise early, or this could be a symptom of breathing disorders such as Sleep Apnoea - particularly the sensation of drowning or dying followed by awakening in a drenching sweat. Although Conor doesn't report snoring or sweating, it does appear that his sleep is irregular and unrefreshing.  Ironically, getting to bed earlier, when people are less tired, improves the quality of their sleep. 

Data collected using ResMed’s sleep monitors (link to

Jan 28-29
Time to sleep: 00:10 hrs
Sleep onset 22:24
Sleep duration 07:53 hrs
Final awakening 08:36
Sleep efficiency 79%

Jan 29-30
Time to sleep 00:16 hrs
Sleep onset 23:22
Sleep duration 08:53 hrs
Final awakening 10:36
Sleep efficiency 87%

Jan 29-30
Time to sleep 00:09 hrs
Sleep onset 23:22
Sleep duration 08:18 hrs
Final awakening 09:42
Sleep efficiency 86%

Jan 30-31
Time to sleep 00:00 hrs
Sleep onset 22:42
Sleep duration 08:42 hrs
Final awakening 09:34
Sleep efficiency 89%

Feb 31-1
Time to sleep 00:13 hrs
Sleep onset 23:53
Sleep duration 07:50 hrs
Final awakening 10:12
Sleep efficiency 93%

Feb 1-2
Time to sleep 00:22 hrs
Sleep onset 03:02
Sleep duration 06:48 hrs
Final awakening 12:30
Sleep efficiency 95%

Feb 2-3
Time to sleep 00:10 hrs
Sleep onset 23:40
Sleep duration 06:23 hrs
Final awakening 08:48
Sleep efficiency 94%