Safe sleep and rest
The sleep and rest requirements for early childhood education and care services help educators to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children. Implementing safe sleep practices based on current research and evidence-based guidelines help to ensure children are safe, healthy and protected from risks associated with sleep and rest.
Effective sleep and rest strategies also help children to feel secure and participate successfully in a learning environment. This results in better engagement and more positive educational outcomes (Quality Area 2 - National Quality Standard).
Sleep and rest requirements under the National Regulations
Regulation 84A,B,C,D requires approved providers, nominated supervisors and family day care educators to “take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs for sleep and rest of children being educated and cared for by the service are met, having regard to the ages, development stages and individual needs of the children”. Further information, on the 1 October 2023 regulation changes to sleep and rest requirements, can be found in Compliance focus – New safe sleep requirements.
Regulation 168 requires education and care services to have policies and procedures relating to children’s sleep and rest.
These policies and procedures should be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary, in accordance with the regulations and best practice guidelines. All staff should receive appropriate information and training, to ensure the policies and procedures are followed in practice.
Other regulations have some relevance to sleep and rest for example in regard to equipment (R103), supervision (S165) and harm and hazard (S167).
Red Nose is considered the recognised national authority on safe sleeping practices for infants and children. Approved providers should use Red Nose recommendations and advice to guide their sleep and rest policies, procedures and practices.
Red Nose has a range of resources and training available on:
- Safe sleep practices for different age groups.
- Safe sleep environments, including cot and mattress requirements.
- Safe sleep practices in family day care settings.
Safe sleep equipment
Providers and services must ensure that all equipment and furniture used are safe, clean and in good repair, and that each child being educated and cared for has access to sufficient furniture, materials and developmentally appropriate equipment suitable for their education and care (regulations 103, 105). This includes safe equipment suitable to meet each child’s sleep and rest needs.
The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a safe cot that meets Australian standards, on a safe mattress, with safe bedding.
Adequate supervision must be maintained during sleep and rest time.
Adequate supervision means:
- That you can respond immediately, particularly when a child is distressed or in a hazardous situation.
- Knowing where children are at all times and monitoring their activities actively and diligently.
During periods of sleep and rest, active monitoring and supervision with the ability to see and hear each child is best practice in both family day care and centre-based care settings.
Practices to support adequate supervision at sleep and rest times include:
- Physically checking/inspecting sleeping children at regular intervals (for example, every 10 minutes for children under two years of age) by checking the rise and fall of the child’s chest and the child’s lip and skin colour from the side of the cot/bed.
- Not using CCTV, audio monitors or heart monitors to replace physical checks.
- Always being within sight and hearing distance of sleeping and resting children so that educators can monitor children’s safety and wellbeing
- Taking into consideration the risk for each individual child, such as considering the age of the child, medical conditions, individual needs and history of health and/or sleep issues.
Services should consider the Red Nose safe sleep recommendations and the importance of carrying out a risk assessment for sleep and rest times. Conducting a risk assessment will assist educators to identify and mitigate risks associated with sleep and rest, tailored to your service’s unique context and children’s individual circumstances and needs.
Services should communicate regularly with families about their safe sleep practices, especially during enrolment and when changes are made to policies and procedures.
Families are encouraged to ask services:
- where do children sleep and can I see it
- what furniture and equipment are used for sleep
- how often do educators check children during sleep and rest times
- how are children’s individual needs and risk factors considered
- what is the service’s policy on safe sleep
- have educators undertaken safe sleep training.
Services should ensure families are consulted about their child’s individual needs and should be sensitive to different values and parenting beliefs, cultural or otherwise, associated with sleep and rest.
However, if a family’s beliefs and requests are in conflict with current recommendations and advice, the approved provider will need to determine if there are exceptional circumstances that allow for alternate practices. These circumstances will usually be medically based and supported by the recommendations of the child’s medical practitioner.
If you are unsure, contact Red Nose for advice.
Policy and procedure guidelines
The department has developed sleep and rest guidance to help services and educators ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children. The guidelines are intended as a resource to help inform best practice in managing sleep and rest within your service.
Regulatory guidance note
Download our Regulatory guidance note (PDF, 779KB) on children’s Safe Sleep and Rest - July 2022.
The Red Nose website has an Advice Hub with a range of resources to inform best practice safe sleeping.
You can contact Red Nose for safe sleep advice by:
- Calling 1300 998 698 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday (AEST)
- Emailing email@example.com
- Asking a question in the Red Nose online Q&A Forum
For further information about safe sleep and rest practices, access this information sheet by ACECQA.
Safe sleeping in family day care
The department is partnering with Red Nose to deliver training and resources specifically tailored to family day care services.
If you work in family day care, access training and resources through the Red Nose website.
Safe sleep poster
Download our safe sleep poster (PDF, 143KB).
The department has worked with Red Nose to produce this safe sleep poster specifically for early childhood education services. It includes short, key messages regarding safe sleep practices which educators can readily refer to during sleep and rest times.
- Safe sleep practices save lives - Red Nose outlines how to ensure your practices are guided by best practice advice and what steps to take to set up a safe sleeping environment.
- Safe sleep practices at Explore and Develop Epping Road - Explore and Develop Epping Road, a long day care service from North Ryde, tells us about their safe sleep practices and how they work with families to meet the sleep/rest needs of every child in their care.
- Safe sleep Q&A with an AO - Robert Barbara, Authorised Officer from the Quality Support Team, shares how services are setting up safe sleep environments and how they are reflecting on their practices to ensure children are safe while sleeping.