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The Bears’ challenge: Sleeping on the flight to London

The team spent all week begging its players to fall asleep on their overnight flight, which was set to depart Chicago around dinnertime Thursday and land in London after breakfast Friday.

Chicago Bears v Washington Redskins
The Bears’ Matt Nagy coaches against the Redskins.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Before they face the Raiders, the Bears have to battle the REMs.

The team spent all week begging its players to fall asleep on the overnight flight to London, which was set to depart Chicago around dinnertime Thursday and land after breakfast Friday.

‘‘I’ll be sleeping,’’ coach Matt Nagy said.

‘‘I’m going to conk out, for sure,’’ quarterback Chase Daniel said.

‘‘As soon as you get [on the plane], you try to put yourself in a nighttime kind of mode,’’ receiver Allen Robinson said.

Robinson knows of which he speaks. He played overseas three times as a member of the Jaguars, the NFL’s unofficial London team.

‘‘It’s a rude awakening,’’ Robinson said. ‘‘I’ll be honest: It isn’t an easy trip. You’ve got to get over there, and you’ve got to get acclimated quickly. It’s a long flight. As soon as you land, you’re starting your day.

‘‘My advice for them would be: ‘As soon as you go on that plane, you go to sleep.’ . . . It’s such a different agenda than you’re accustomed to, as far as sleep patterns.’’

The Bears were scheduled to land at 9:30 a.m. London time Friday, check into their hotel and eat before practicing at Allianz Park at 4:15 p.m. That’s a grueling 36 hours for anyone, much less players — such as running backs Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery — who never have traveled out of the country.

‘‘I’m the type of guy that can adapt to any situation,’’ Cohen said.

Nagy is using psychology to try to ensure all his players can.

‘‘You’ve got to add six hours right away,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘So I told them we’re leaving at midnight, right? So you have to trick your mind into saying, ‘All right, it’s time to go to bed on the plane.’ When you wake up, now it’s the morning.’’

Then there’s the pure size of the players. To prevent swelling, players and coaches will wear compression socks on the flight. The Bears might wake up their players with leg injuries and have them walk around to prevent stiffness, Nagy said.

There are two schools of thought when traveling to London: Teams either arrive early in the week to get accustomed to the time change or fly in late to make the early part of the week as normal as possible.

The Raiders chose the former; their eight-hour time change was more drastic than that of the Bears. Besides, the Raiders played Sunday in Indianapolis and preferred to fly on to the United Kingdom rather than fly home in the opposite direction.

Nagy chose to fly Thursday, so the team could practice — and coaches could prepare — at Halas Hall. Superstition played a role, too: He was an assistant on the Chiefs team that beat the Lions 45-10 at Wembley Stadium in 2015. Andy Reid’s team did what Nagy decided to do — practice at home Wednesday and Thursday before boarding a flight.

‘‘You’re an assistant coach and you don’t know everything that goes into it and you take it for granted,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Now, just going through our support staff and understanding, ‘OK, we’re going on Thursday evening,’ and there are so many things, just as simple as the time change. What do you do when you’re on the airplane? How does your body react when you leave a few days prior? What do you do when you get there? How does your mind react to the sleep? No sleep?’’

Nagy has spent months planning for that.

‘‘Preparing them for what they’re about to go through is important, which we’ve done,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘The next part is spicing up practice [Friday] a little bit, so you give them a little bit of energy. How do you do that? Well, there’s ways to manipulate that. That’s my job to do, which we’ll do.

‘‘And then once practice is done, go back to the hotel and fall asleep. Because you’re tired.’’