Everyone struggles with at least one aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. For some, it’s eating well, for others it’s exercising regularly. For me, getting to bed on time and getting a full night’s sleep has always been tough. In college, I was known to send my teammates taunting messages well past midnight, videos of me getting in one more workout while they slept.
As a reasonable bedtime approaches, I tend to get easily distracted. I start to feel hungry, or there will be some show I want to watch. There’s always an excuse to stay up a little bit later, and the next thing I know, it’s 2 or 3 am. But as a player in the NFL, I’ve learned the value of getting at least eight hours of sleep.
During my second year in the League, I vowed to get to sleep at a reasonable bedtime. For me, between 10 and 11 pm. I made a little ritual out of turning off the TV, flicking off the lights, and flicking on the fan. Going to bed will never be my favorite part of the day, but regularly getting to bed on time made a noticeable difference in my performance on the field. After a tough rookie season, I was one of the League’s leading running backs in 2016.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night, and waking up at the same time each morning — even on weekends.
- Make your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and don’t hesitate to use eye shades or earplugs to help block out noise and light that can disturb good sleep.
- Avoid using your smartphone or tablet before bed, the screen’s blue light can stimulate your brain and inhibit sleep.
One thing that helped me get to bed on time was thinking beyond the moment, and realizing the price I would pay the next day if I didn’t get enough rest. I would look at the big picture, and put the goals I wanted to accomplish for myself and with my team, above the immediate gratification of staying up just a little bit later.
If that didn’t work? Well, I’d just channel the voice of my mom, who’s always been my most supportive fan, and my toughest: “Melvin, put the phone away and go to bed!”
Pro Tip: Getting a good night’s sleep is a Rally® Mission, and an important part of staying healthy. It’s during our sleep that the body repairs the strain we put on our muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout the day. The hormones that affect hunger and blood sugar rebalance overnight, and our immune system prepares for another day of fighting off infections and keeping us from getting sick. Sleep also helps the brain rewire neural pathways, so we can think more clearly and be better at problem solving the next day. Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night.