How to Improve Sleep for Neurodivergent Teens

If your teenager has been diagnosed (or suspected) as Neurodivergent then you are aware of how many aspects of daily life are affected. Alongside the typical challenges of school and daily life, most people affected by ADHD, Autism, SPD, OCD, ODD, Anxiety, etc also have trouble sleeping. According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), three out of four children and four out of five adults with the diagnosis also struggle with some type of sleep disorder. Your neurodivergent teen may find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. They may be anxious about going to bed, or they may have difficulty shutting off their mind at night. It’s important to get enough sleep, as it helps their body and brain rest and recover from the day. Lack of sleep can lead to problems with concentration, mood, and energy levels. In this blog post, we will explore tips on improving sleep for neurodivergent teens. We will discuss ways to wind down before bed, create a relaxing sleep environment, and more.

Why Is Sleep Important for Neurodivergent Teens?

You may be wondering why sleep is so important for neurodivergent teens. A neurodivergent person needs sufficient rest like any other person. Why? Because their brain works differently, and it takes longer for them to rest and recover.

An annoyed looking teenager trying to reach out for her alarm clock while peeking from her eye masks

When they don't get enough sleep, it can lead to problems with focus, concentration, decision-making, and emotional regulation. They may also be more prone to anxiety and depression. So it's crucial that they make sleep a priority in their life.

Regular Sleep Schedule

Determine ahead of time what their nighttime routine will include, including times to bathe, read, and so on. Be sure their rooms before bedtime is peaceful and quiet. Lights are at a minimum so that the body can make enough melatonin, which is the body's natural sleep hormone. When they have a regular sleep schedule, their body and mind will get used to that sleeping schedule. They'll find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Time to Sleep image of a clock and a hand writing Time to Sleep

Other things you can consider to try and get your teens to a good night’s sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants late in the day.

  • Avoid heavy meals or exercise close to bedtime.

  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.

  • Create a sleep-friendly environment in your teen’s bedroom.

  • Limit screen time before bed.

Remember to also ask your teens to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

If you can get your teens to follow these reminders, they will likely feel better mentally and physically. They may have more energy, better focus, and an improved mood.

If they still have trouble sleeping then read about this “Teen Sleep eBook” by Nakayla Von Raeder founder of The Slumber Academy and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant & Neurodivergent Sleep Specialist who helps children and teens overcome insomnia and gives advice on getting a good night’s sleep.

Creating a Relaxing Sleep Environment

Creating a relaxing sleep environment is key for neurodivergent teens and the following are suggested:

1. Reduce noise and clutter in your bedroom.

2. Remove electronics i.e. gadgets, mobile phones, iPads, etc.

3. Make your bedroom dark and cool.

4. Use calming colors in your bedroom.

5. Hang calming pictures or images in your bedroom.

6. Keep your bedroom neat and organized.

7. Use calming scents in your bedroom.

8. Winding down with a relaxing activity in your bedroom

9. Do not do homework in the bedroom so that the room is associated with sleep.

What Foods to Eat to Improve Sleep?

What Foods Should Neurodivergent Teens Eat

There are many different foods that can help improve sleep in neurodivergent teens. Some of the best foods to eat include:

  • Bananas: Bananas are a great source of magnesium, which can help relax the body and improve sleep.

  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate that can help promote sleep by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.