Issue 3 - Unpacking the key elements of R81 and R168
Sleep & Rest Requirements
The sleep and rest requirements for early childhood education and care services support healthy growth and development, by guiding services to meet each child’s need for sleep, rest and relaxation.
Being active, healthy, well rested and free of illness helps children participate happily and successfully in the learning environment. This results in better engagement and more positive educational outcomes. (Quality Area 2 - National Quality Standard).
Effective sleep and rest strategies are important factors in ensuring a child feels secure and is safe and healthy at a service.
Services should consult with families about their child’s individual needs and be sensitive to different values and parenting beliefs, cultural or otherwise, associated with sleep and rest.
Sleep and Rest Regulations - R81
Regulation 81 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”
Sleep and Rest Policy - R168
Since 1 October 2017, Regulation 168 includes a requirement for education and care services to have policies and procedures relating to children’s sleep and rest.
These internal policies should be regularly reviewed and updated as necessary in accordance with the regulations. Staff should receive appropriate information and training, to ensure the policies are upheld in practice.
What should be considered in your Sleep and Rest Policy?
Approved providers should ensure several principles are included in the service’s policy. It should show that:
- reasonable precaution is taken to protect children from harm and hazard
- children should sleep and rest with their face uncovered
- a quiet, well ventilated and comfortable place should be designated for rest and sleep
- children should neither be forced to sleep nor prevented from sleeping
- adequate supervision should be maintained at all times
- guidance is included on how sleep and rest are promoted at the service
Policies and procedures should be based on current research and recommended evidence-based principles and guidelines.
Supervision during sleep and rest time
Adequate supervision must be maintained during sleep and rest time.
Approved Providers must ensure staff move around and are located within a service to provide adequate supervision of children at all times. This includes adequate supervision of children who are sleeping and resting.
Adequate supervision at sleep and rest times involves:
- checking/inspecting sleeping children at regular intervals
- always being within sight and hearing distance of sleeping and resting children so that a child’s breathing and the colour of their skin can be assessed
- taking into consideration the risk for each individual child
- considering the age of the child, medical conditions, individual needs and history of health and/or sleep issues.
For further information about sleep and rest, go to the ACECQA website.
Ratios during sleep and rest time
The Educator to Child Ratios prescribed in r123 must be maintained at all times, including during sleep and rest times.
Catering for the different sleep and rest needs of children
Children, even of the same age, can have different sleep, rest and relaxation needs.
For children who do not wish to sleep but show signs of tiredness, a comfortable, safe and quiet area must be available for them to rest.
For children who do not wish to sleep or rest, quiet activities that are not disruptive to sleeping children should be available.
Ratios for Beds/ Children: Is there a ratio for beds/children?
There is no requirement in the National Law or Regulations specifying how many beds should be kept at each service.
The approved provider must use their own experience, judgement and discretion in determining this based on an understanding of the sleep and rest requirements of the children in their care.
Family’s belief and requests
Approved Providers 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.
If a family’s beliefs and requests are in conflict with current recommended practice, 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.
Red Nose (formerly SIDS and Kids) is considered the recognised national authority on safe sleeping practices for infants and children. Approved providers should use this resource as a guide for their policies, procedures and practice.
Red Nose advises the following on these key topics:
- Should be placed on their back to sleep when first being settled
- If a medical condition exists that prevents a baby from being placed on their back, the alternative practice should be confirmed in writing with the service, by the child’s medical practitioner.
- Once a baby can roll from back to front and back again on their own, they can be left to find their own preferred sleep or rest position (usually around 5–6 months of age) and can be placed in a safe baby sleeping bag (i.e. with fitted neck and arm holes, but no hood)
- At no time should a baby’s face or head be covered (i.e. with linen).
- When a young child is observed attempting to climb out of a cot, it is time to move them out of a cot.
- All cots sold in Australia must meet the current mandatory Australian Standard for Cots (AS/NZS 2172), and should carry a label to indicate this.
- Babies should not be left in a bassinet, hammock, play pen or pram/stroller to sleep, as these are not safe substitutes for a cot.
- Mattresses should be clean, firm and flat
- They should fit the cot base and not have more than a 20mm gap between the mattress sides and ends
A firm sleep surface that is compliant with the AS/NZS Voluntary Standard (AS/NZ 8811.1:2013 Methods of testing infant products – Sleep surfaces – Test for firmness).