This study characterizes the development of diurnal patterns of slow-wave sleep (SWS) distribution and SWS electroencephalographic (EEG) delta-power (DP) density in 12- to 24-day-old rats (P12-P24). Diurnal organization in sleep-wake distribution was established by P20. A decline in SWS DP across the light phase did not appear until P24. Before P20, SWS DP increased across the light phase in a pattern inverse to that typically seen in adult rats. At P20, SWS DP was evenly distributed across the light phase, and at P24, SWS DP declined across the light phase. The transient dissociation between diurnal organization in sleep-wake cycles and SWS DP suggests that circadian and homeostatic sleep regulatory mechanisms develop at different rates in the postnatal period.