We often pay attention to the cost of doing something—like buying a car, going out to eat, or taking a vacation. We don’t often pay attention to the cost of not doing something—again, say, taking a vacation.

It turns out many Americans don’t take their paid time off. In a survey by travel website Expedia.com, over a third of respondents don’t take all the vacation days they earn. But even in Britain and France, employees don’t take all their vacation time, although they leave fewer days on the table. And there’s another important distinction: The British get an average of 26 vacation days and the French get 37, significantly more than our typical 14 days. In addition, those countries require employers to offer paid vacation leave. In a study of 197 countries by Resume.io, the U.S. ranked second to the LOWEST number of paid vacation days. It’s also the only industrialized country that does not require employers to make paid vacation available to employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23% of nongovernmental workers get no paid vacation.

There are many reasons why you might skip taking a vacation, for example, if money is tight. Some workers think sticking around the office shows they’re indispensable, kind of a guard against being laid off. Some companies foster a culture that frowns on taking time off. In other jobs, being away from the office makes stress worse because it means your workload will be heavier when you come back. All valid concerns, but the benefits of a little time off often outweigh the drawbacks.

Take Vacation and Come Back Refreshed

Think how much you’d value an investment that could:

  • Improve your sleep.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Improve your productivity and creativity at work.
  • Extend your life.

A real vacation, where you unplug your laptop and ignore phone calls and text messages from the office, can help do all that and more. The Framingham Heart Study found that participating women who took vacations only once in six years were eight times more likely to have a heart attack compared to those taking vacations at least twice a year. Men who didn’t take a vacation had a 30% higher risk of a heart attack then men who did take a vacation.

Enlightened employers understand the vacation payoff. Traditionally, bosses offered vacations to recruit and retain employees, but many employers now understand how important it is to their employees’ health and productivity.

So, if you are overdue for some time off and have vacation time available, consider using it to get some rest, relaxation, and re-creation.