Surface modified reduced graphene oxide (rGO) aerogels were synthesized using the hydrothermal method. Ethylene diamine (EDA) and α-cyclodextrin (CD) were used to functionalize the surface of the graphene oxide layers. The oxygen reduction and surface modification occurred in-situ during the hydrothermal self-assembly process. The chemical functionality and structure of the resulting ethylene diamine modified (rGO-EDA) and cyclodextrin modified (rGO-CD) aerogels as well as of the pristine unmodified rGO aerogel were studied using XPS, SEM, XRD, and SANS techniques. The overall surface composition showed a significant decrease in the oxygen content for all synthesized aerogels. The surface modified aerogels were characterized by a disordered stacking of the assembled rGO layers. The surface functionalities resulted in a broad distribution of the interlayer spacing and introduced structural heterogeneities. Such disordered structures can enable a better adsorption mechanism of the sodium ions. Coin cells based on the synthesized aerogels and sodium metal were assembled and tested at several charge and discharge rates. The correlation between the surface functionality of the rGO, the induced structural heterogeneities due to the disordered stacking, and the electrochemical performance of sodium-ion batteries were investigated. Operando XRD measurements were carried out during the battery cycling to investigate the adsorption or intercalation nature of the sodiation mechanism.