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  • Writer's pictureAmy Duffy-Barnes

No Rest for the Neurodivergent

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

As human beings, we all have unique experiences and ways of processing information. For some people, their neurology is different from what we consider “neurotypical” or the standard. This is known as neurodivergence, or having a brain that is wired differently than the norm. Neurodivergent individuals may have conditions such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia, among others.

Along with other challenges, neurodivergent individuals are more likely to struggle with sleep. Sleep is a crucial component of overall health, and a lack of quality sleep can worsen mental health issues. It can be hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up feeling rested. There are a few things that neurodivergent individuals can do to improve their sleep habits:

Just go to bed. Just go to sleep. Actually, just kidding, although that is the advice that many of us get from neurotypical people. Many neurodivergent people have brains that do not make as much melatonin when compared to their neurotypical counterparts. Sleep is often difficult for neurodivergent people and some people will take over-the-counter melatonin to help themselves feel tired at night.

1. Establish a routine: Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. I realize this is harder, said than done, but even if you can manage a consistent wake time fist than gradually work up to going to bed at close to the same time every night you will benefit! This helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.

2. Create a calming sleep environment: Consider dimming the lights, reducing noise, and lowering the temperature to make your bedroom a relaxing and inviting place to sleep.

3. Limit screen time: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can affect your brain’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. Aim to limit screen time at least an hour before bed to help you fall asleep more easily.

4. Practice relaxation techniques: Try mindfulness, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation to help calm your mind and reduce anxiety around bedtime.

5. Get regular exercise: Exercise can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and promote better sleep. However, it’s important to avoid strenuous exercise too close to bedtime, as it can be too stimulating and make it harder to fall asleep.

6. Make sure you get sunlight during the day. If you live in a climate, that is continually cloudy, consider using a sun lamp in the morning and early afternoon, this will actually help you sleep better later at night.

7. Most importantly, be compassionate with yourself. So many neurodivergent people struggle with sleep throughout the lifespan. Never beat yourself up because of your biology.

These strategies can help create a more restful and peaceful environment leading to a better sleep quality. Additionally, if you are continuing to consistently have sleep issues or notice that it is severely affecting your health, talk to a medical professional for further support. A neurodivergent individual can achieve better sleep habits through trial and error and seeking aid when needed.

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