notably with no gender difference in reported sleep quality. However, women more often reported lowered intentions to pursue more status at work on days following a night of poor sleep.
The researchers can only speculate about exactly why sleep’s impact on mood effects women’s aspirations and not men’s, but they suspect it may have to do with gender differences in emotion regulation as well as societal expectations–or some combination of these forces.
Neuroscience research has shown that women tend to experience greater emotional re-activity and less emotion regulation than men, and this can be reinforced by cultural stereotypes of women as more emotional. At the same time, stereotypes of men as being more ambitious than women likely add more pressure for them to scale the corporate ladder, so perhaps poor sleep quality would be less likely to deter men from their work aspirations.
These findings hold some good news for women who want to advance their careers, though, Sheppard said. For instance, they might take some practical steps to improve work aspirations, ranging from practising meditation to help with both sleep and emotion regulation to putting better boundaries on work hours – and of course, simply striving to get better sleep.
“It’s important to be able to connect aspirations to something happening outside the work environment that is controllable,” she said. “There are lots of things that anyone can do to have a better night’s sleep and regulate mood in general.”