Sep 13, 2023 | Neurodiversity

Neurodivergence and sleep.

Neurodivergence and Sleep

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There is no question that sleep plays a key role in how we function. From our professional lives to our personal lives, getting a good night’s rest is incredibly important. However, sleep issues are quite common, and even more so for neurodivergent individuals. So, today, let’s delve into the connection between neurodivergence and sleep, and some tips to help overcome common issues.

Research has found that over half of children with autism have one or more chronic sleep problems, and these issues often carry over into teenage and adult years. Furthermore, an estimated 25-50% of people with ADHD have sleep problems, and around 75% of adults living with depression suffer from insomnia.

How does neurodivergence affect sleep?

Research has discovered that the unique brain structures of neurodivergent people can impact their sleep patterns. According to the Sleep Foundation, “ADHD-related sleep problems may be a side effect of impaired arousal, alertness, and regulation circuits in the brain. Other researchers believe that ADHD-related sleep problems can be traced to a delayed circadian rhythm with a later onset of melatonin production.”

As a result, there are common issues that neurodivergent individuals may face. Some of these include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders
  • Sleep disordered breathing
  • Restless legs syndrome

For some, there may be issues related to rest from medication. Some medications prescribed to provide neurodivergent support may have an impact on the amount or quality of sleep.

Tips to help

A consistent routine is beneficial for most people. This is even more true for neurodivergent individuals. Therefore, let’s highlight some of our top tips to help you achieve optimal rest.

Create a routine

This will vary depending on the individual, but establishing a sleep routine that works for you will likely help. This could mean having a warm bath before bed, enjoying a hot cup of tea, or unwinding by reading a few chapters of your favourite book.

You also should consider going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time in the morning. Be sure to turn off your electronics at least one hour before you plan to go to bed. While scrolling on your phone into the wee hours of the night is tempting, it does nothing to help with the quality of sleep you will have.

Prepare your environment

Your bedroom should be a welcoming space. As we mentioned above, avoid bringing your phone or tablet into your room. Ensure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow, keep the temperature in your room cool, and keep noise levels to a minimum. Some people can relax more easily using a white noise machine to help block out surrounding sounds.

Another tip is to consider using a weighted blanket as they can help calm restlessness and reduce anxiety.

Set worries aside

While this is easier said than done, setting your worries aside will help improve your sleep. One way to help with this step is to keep a journal beside your bed so that you can write down what you are thinking about in the middle of the night and revisit your thoughts in the morning. What you will likely find is that putting your worries to paper can help get them out of your head so that your mind is more able to rest.

Ensure you talk about your worries to a trusted friend or professional on a regular basis so that you are better equipped to deal with them throughout the daytime, and they won’t impact your rest as much throughout the night.

Sleep issues are common, and often treatable. Therefore, if you are struggling, be sure to talk to a medical professional to discuss options or resources that can help you get a better night’s rest.

Learn more on this topic

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