Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 3: Health Promotion and Protection

3.1 Health Promotion in Child Care

3.1.4 Safe Sleep Scheduled Rest Periods and Sleep Arrangements

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/30/2018.

The facility should provide an opportunity for, but should not require, sleep and rest. The facility should make available a regular rest period for all children and age appropriate sleep/nap environment (See Standard For children who are unable to sleep, the facility should provide time and space for quiet play. A facility that includes preschool-aged and school-aged children should make books, board games, and other forms of quiet play available.

Facilities that offer infant care should provide a safe sleep environment and use a written safe sleep policy that describes the practices they follow to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and other infant deaths. For example, when infants fall asleep, they must be put down to sleep on their back in a crib with a firm mattress and no blankets or soft objects.


Conditions conducive to sleep and rest for younger children include a consistent caregiver, a routine quiet place, regular times for rest, and use of routines and safe practices. Most preschool-aged children in all-day care benefit from scheduled periods of rest. This rest may take the form of actual napping, a quiet time, or a change of pace between activities. The times and duration of naps will affect behavior at home (1).

Young children need to develop healthy sleep habits for optimal development. Yet, sleep problems, i.e. short sleep duration, behavioral sleep problems, and sleep-disordered breathing all peak during the preschool years. In 2016, the National Sleep Foundation issued recommended sleep durations for newborns (14–17 hours), infants (12–15 hours), toddlers (11–14 hours), and preschoolers (10–13 hours), which include both daytime and nighttime sleep (2,3).Getting sufficient sleep helps prevent pediatric obesity. In meta-analyses, short sleep duration before 5 years of age is associated with 30% to 90% increased odds of overweight/obesity at later ages (4,5). To prevent early childhood obesity, the Institute of Medicine recommends that child care providers be required to adopt practices that promote age-appropriate sleep duration and that staff be trained to counsel parents about recommended sleep durations (6). Behavioral sleep problems (i.e., difficulty getting to/falling asleep) at 18 months of age are associated with a 60% to 80% increased risk of emotional and behavioral problems at 5 years of age (7). Irregular bedtimes throughout early childhood are associated with reduced reading, math, and spatial ability scores (8). Sleep-disordered breathing (e.g., snoring, apnea) in early childhood is associated with a 60% to 80% increase in social and emotional difficulties at 7 years of age (9).


In the young infant, favorable conditions for sleep and rest include being dry, well fed, and comfortable. Infants may need 1 or 2 (or sometimes more) naps during the time they are in child care. As infants age, they typically transition to 1 nap per day, and having 1 nap per day is consistent with the schedule that most facilities follow. Different practices, such as rocking, holding a child while swaying, singing, reading, or patting an arm or back, could be used to calm the child. Lighting does not need to be turned off during nap time.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Safe Sleep Practices and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)/SIDS Risk Reduction Levels of Illumination Sleeping Equipment and Supplies Cribs
  1. National Sleep Foundation. How much sleep do we really need? Accessed November 14, 2017

  2. Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D’Ambrosio C, et al. Consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the recommended amount of sleep for healthy children: methodology and discussion. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(11):1549–1561

  3. Fatima Y, Doi SA, Mamun AA. Longitudinal impact of sleep on overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: a systematic review and bias-adjusted meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015;16(2):137–149

  4. Li L, Zhang S, Huang Y, Chen K. Sleep duration and obesity in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. J Paediatr Child Health. 2017;53(4):378–385

  5. Institute of Medicine. Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies: Goals, Recommendations, and Potential Actions. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine; 2011. Published June 2011. Accessed November 14, 2017

  6. Sivertsen B, Harvey AG, Reichborn-Kjennerud T, Torgersen L, Ystrom E, Hysing M. Later emotional and behavioral problems associated with sleep problems in toddlers: a longitudinal study. JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(6):575–582

  7. Kelly, Y; Kelly, J; Sacker, A; (2013) Time for bed: associations with cognitive performance in 7-year-old children: a longitudinal population-based study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health , 67 (11) pp. 926-931.
  8. Bonuck K, Freeman K, Chervin RD, Xu L. Sleep-disordered breathing in a population-based cohort: behavioral outcomes at 4 and 7 years. Pediatrics. 2012;129(4):e857–e865


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/30/2018.