Quality sleep can boost women’s work ambitions, study reveals

PULLMAN, Wash. — Researchers from Washington State University have found that getting proper sleep regularly may help increase a woman’s professional ambitions. Men, on the other hand, don’t appear to reap any business benefits from extra shuteye. The study found that sleep quality appeared to have a direct impact on women’s moods and changed how they felt about advancing in their careers. Men’s aspirations did not show any influence from their sleep habits one way or the other.

These findings are based on a two-week survey consisting of 135 U.S. workers. Around noon, each of the survey participants would note how well they had slept the night before and the quality of their current mood. Later on in the evening, each person answered questions pertaining to how they felt about striving for more status and responsibility at their job.

Professor Leah Sheppard, in collaboration with study co-authors Julie Kmec of WSU and Teng Iat Loi of University of Minnesota-Duluth, collected over 2,200 observations over the course of the two-week survey period.

“When women are getting a good night’s sleep and their mood is boosted, they are more likely to be oriented in their daily intentions toward achieving status and responsibility at work,” says Sheppard, an associate professor in WSU’s Carson College of Business, in a university release. “If their sleep is poor and reduces their positive mood, then we saw that they were less oriented toward those goals.”

Predictably, sleep quality reports among participants of either gender varied greatly. Some people slept better than others, regardless of specific gender. However, women more frequently reported lowered intentions to pursue more status at work on days following a night of poor sleep.

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Why does sleep affect workplace aspirations?

As far as why sleep quality influences men and women in the workplace differently, study authors can only speculate at this point. They suspect there may be a connection to gender differences in emotional regulation, societal expectations, or a combination of those forces.

Neuroscience research has shown in the past that women tend to experience more emotional reactivity and less emotional regulation than men, and cultural stereotypes depicting women as more emotional can reinforce this belief. Meanwhile, men are stereotypically expected to be more ambitious, so the research team at WSU theorize poor sleep quality may be less likely to deter men from their professional aspirations due to added societal expectations.

Prof. Sheppard adds that this study offers some potentially beneficial advice for women looking to upgrade their careers. She cites practical steps to improve work aspirations, such as meditation, placing firmer boundaries between work and home, and of course, prioritizing sleep.

“It’s important to be able to connect aspirations to something happening outside the work environment that is controllable,” Sheppard concludes. “There are lots of things that anyone can do to have a better night’s sleep and regulate mood in general.”

The findings appear in the journal Sex Roles.

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