Are You Using Your PTO? Four science-based reasons you should book your next vacation

According to a survey by Inc. Magazine, the average U.S. employee takes only half of their allotted vacation time. And among those who take vacation time, three in five admitted to doing some work – checking email, talking with a coworker about a project, or talking with their supervisor about a work-related issue.

Taking time off from work is important for mental and physical health, helping you return to work more productive and effective. Consider these four science-based reasons you should use your PTO.

1.   Stress reduction. Vacations reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that cause anxiety. And the effects are long lasting - after taking time off from work, people have fewer stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and heart irregularities, and they still felt better five weeks later.

2.   Heart disease prevention. Many studies have highlighted the cardiovascular health benefits of taking a vacation. Both men and women who skip vacations have higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks than those who vacations each year.

3.   Improved productivity. Ernst & Young conducted a study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. And, frequent vacationers were less likely to leave the organization. When you're more productive, you're happier, and when you're happier, you excel at what you do.

4.   Better sleep.  Too much on our minds affects our sleep, and a lack of sleep leads to less focus, less alertness, impaired memory, and a decreased quality of life. Researchers say vacations can help interrupt the habits that disrupt sleep, like working late into the night or watching a backlit screen before bed. If you have stress from work and you find your sleep is disrupted because of anxiety or tension, take time off and learn to reset your sleep pattern.

Have you been putting off a vacation? Schedule some time off and give yourself the gift of better sleep, relaxation, good health, and better productivity.