Jun 10, 2008

Vacations Have Health Benefits

It turns out that taking time off work isn't just a luxury -- it improves our health, the quality and quantity of our sleep, and our reaction times. According to an article by Alina Tugend in the New York Times, "Vacations Are Good for You, Medically Speaking," a study has shown that women who took a vacation only once every six or more years were eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations a year. Another study showed that men who didn't take annual vacations had a 21% higher risk of death from all cases, and were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack. The article also cites interesting research on how vacations affect our sleep. After a few days on vacation, participants were averaging an hour more of good quality sleep, and registered an 80% improvement in their reaction times as measured by vigilance testing. The benefits continued, though less markedly, after vacationers returned home. The sleep survey involved vacationers who were flying from the West Coast of the United States to New Zealand for at least a week of vacation. But will more modest vacationing - occasioned by this year's flagging economy and high gas prices -- offer the same rewards? According to an AOL Travel/Zogby survey, more than half of the respondents felt that they had less money to spend on summer vacations this year than last year. Perhaps as a result, a third of respondents were planning to stay with family and friends rather than in a hotel. And, campgrounds around the country are reporting high numbers of reservations. It remains to be seen whether we'll get an extra hour of quality sleep on the ground or the hide-a-bed. Lisa Guerin