In a career that began in 2008, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has missed only two games. Both came in the 2009 season when Ryan had a case of turf toe.
There have been plenty of suggestions about why Ryan has been so durable – condition, getting rid of the ball quickly and toughness. But Ryan let a little secret out of the bag this week when he revealed that good sleep habits may have played a role in keeping him healthy.
“There is no getting around that sleep is like the No. 1 most important thing,’’ Ryan told reporters in Atlanta. “Every study that you look at, every time you try to do any research on recovery or training or whatever, any kind of performance-enhancing stuff, it all comes down to sleep.’’
Ryan has never been the kind of guy to go to bed very late. But his bed time now is earlier than it was in his younger days. He shoots for nine hours of sleep a night.
“It’s not easy to always try and get nine hours, especially because we’re in here early,’’ Ryan said. “But it takes effort. You’ve got to force yourself to go to bed early. That’s just something I’ve worked on throughout my career. I’ve gotten better and better at it. Now, I’m an early-to-bed kind of guy and early up in the morning.’’
That formula seems to be working quite well. Ryan is off to the best start of his career and has been mentioned as a possible Most Valuable Player award candidate.
One advantage Ryan, who is married, has is that he doesn’t have any children. He doesn’t have to get up to deal with a sick or noisy child in the middle of the night. That can make sleep difficult for other players.
Take San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who plays the Falcons Sunday. There’s a guy with some big challenges in getting his sleep. Rivers tries to follow a routine similar to Ryan’s, but that doesn’t always work out.
“I have eight children,’’ Rivers said in a conference call with the Atlanta media this week. “Over the last 13 years there certainly have been some nights, some weeks where (sleep) is not as good. Thankfully, my wife is awesome and handles it during the season, during the middle of the night. But I couldn’t put a gauge on how important sleep is.’’
Gauge or no gauge, Rivers is bright enough to believe that getting a good amount of sleep keeps him healthy. Rivers, 34, hasn’t missed a game since 2005.
“I certainly think (sleep) helps,’’ Rivers said. “First off, I’m just so thankful that I’ve been blessed to be healthy enough to play. I do think sleep is important. I prefer early, early morning rather than working late, late nights. There have been plenty of nights when you’re studying or you are looking back over the game film or the plan and I’ve said to myself, “I’ve got to go to bed. Sleep right now is more important than looking at another play tonight.’’
There have been plenty of studies that say sleep is a performance enhancer. But who needs studies. All you have to do is look at Rivers and Ryan and you’ll see the importance of sleep.