It Takes Three to Tango: Connecting Policy, Practice and Research to improve Sleep, Rest and Relaxation in Early Childhood Education and Care.

Year: 2017

Author: Staton, Sally, Irvine, Susan, Smith, Simon, Pattinson, Cassandra, Thorpe, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Sleep is an educational issue. Across the life-span good quality sleep supports learning, emotional regulation, behaviour, and health. As with other areas of child development, such as walking or talking, in early childhood there are different rates of maturation of sleep patterning and considerable individual variation in children's sleep needs, including the need for day sleep. This variation is reflected at a policy level with the National Quality Standard (NQS) for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) specifying that services must provide appropriate opportunities to meet each child's need for sleep, rest and relaxation (QA 2.1.2). What constitutes appropriate sleep, rest, and relaxation practice in ECEC and how services enact this requirement, however has, until recently, had surprisingly little evidence base. Enactment of the NQS standard has been commensurately based on historical precedent or ideology that at times places parents, ECEC provider and regulators at odds.
We provide an overview of a policy and practice targeted program of research aimed at providing an immediately translatable evidence base to guide provision of appropriate sleep, rest, and relaxation. This applied program has implications both nationally and internationally, where questions regarding management of individual sleep needs within the group based context of ECEC are often fiercely contested. Across a number of inter-related studies we have applied a range of approaches including large scale in-situ observation techniques (N>170 long day care, family day care and kindergarten settings; N>2500 children); interviews and surveys with key stakeholders (including educators [N>200], parents [N>750], and children [N