It isn’t always easy to carve out time for a vacation. 

The average American worker takes just eight days a year, according to 2015 figures from the US Department of Labor. 

That would have been unimaginable for a medieval peasant, who took anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off.

The short breaks mean that Americans are donating an average of $604 in work time to their employers every year in unused vacation time that can’t be rolled over or paid out, according to a 2017 estimate from the US Travel Association.

Nearly half (49{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c}) of American workers said they can’t vacation because their workloads are too heavy, according to a 2016 survey from NPR, Harvard, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And 42{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} of those survey respondents said they felt they couldn’t take all their paid vacation days because there weren’t enough people to cover for them.

But there are some signs Americans are starting to change their ways: a 2018 report from the US Travel Association suggests that after two decades of declines in the number of vacation days workers took per year, employees who work more than 35 hours a week and receive paid time off are now starting to both earn and use up more allotted holiday time than they did a few years back. In 2017, vacationers spent an an extra half day away from their desks on average than they did in 2016, according to the report.

Although it can feel tough to get away from the office, we’re likely not doing ourselves any favors by working ourselves into the ground. There are real, important benefits to a restful vacation. 

Here’s what vacation can do for your body and your brain, according to research.

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