If your salespeople are burning the candle at both ends — or staying out late carousing with customers — they might not be learning much — from training sessions, from bosses or from buyers.
Many studies have confirmed that sleep is vital to learning. It helps the brain process new information and lock it into memory. Even a short midday snooze can improve retention of new learning.
But is sleep itself the thing that’s improving memory and learning? Or just the passage of time?
It’s the sleep. We know because a new study specifically looks at what goes in inside the brain during sleep. British researchers found that the sleeping brain is working hard. It replays important information from the day to burn it into memory.
This activity happens in the hippocampus, which is the central repository in the brain for memories. The replay process doesn’t just lock in memories; it builds stronger connections between nerve cells. And memories plus connections equals learning.
Another study found that learning and sleep are closely linked: The neurons that consolidate memory are the same ones that help us fall sleep. To quote the lead researcher: “It’s almost as if [the neurons] were saying ‘Hey, stay awake and learn this.’ Then, after a while, the neurons start signaling to suppress that section [of the brain], as if to say ‘you’re going to need sleep if you want to remember this later.’”
You may not want to build in nap breaks for your salespeople, but this research does suggest that even the most hard-driving salespeople need to consider the impact of sleep hygiene on their personal bottom line. Well-rested salespeople will learn more from their customers and have the mental resources to keep up. So tell your reps: You’re making money even when you’re sleeping.
Sources: Haynes, P. R., Christmann, B. L. and Griffith, L. C. (2015). A single pair of neurons links sleep to memory consolidation in Drosophila melanogaster. eLife, doi: 10.7554/eLife.03868. Sadowski, J. H., Jones, M. W. and Mellor, J. R. (2016). Sharp-wave ripples orchestrate the induction of synaptic plasticity during reactivation of place cell firing patterns in the hippocampus. Cell Reports, 14(8), 1916-29.
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