Do you keep any plants in your bedroom, or have you always heard that it’s better not to because they produce carbon dioxide at night?
Personally, I have a trailing spider plant that keeps me company night after night, a plant that I now know to be one of the best to keep in the bedroom.
In 1989, NASA conducted a fascinating study into plants that emit oxygen, rather than carbon dioxide, at night. They also found plants which act as natural air purifiers – a potentially useful quality you can harness to keep the air in your bedroom as fresh and oxygen rich as possible.
And while there’s still no definitive evidence that bedroom plant choice can have a profound impact on your sleep, every little helps in my opinion.
So in this article I’ll be looking at plants which release oxygen at night and plants which are known to have air purifying qualities.
Whether you live in one of the world’s increasingly polluted cities, or simply like the idea of improving your bedroom air, hopefully you’ll find a plant which is both aesthetically pleasing and a useful ally in the quest to sleep better.
How plants improve the bedroom conditions
In a previous article I wrote about how plant and plant extracts can help improve your sleep. Lavender, Valerian and other well-known plant oils and extracts have long been treasured for their relaxing and calming properties.
NASA’s study suggests that simply having certain plants in your bedroom could improve your sleep, assuming your sleep is being negatively affected by the air quality, but how does this happen?
Plants are natural, powerful air purifying systems. Their ability to improve your sleep comes from the fresh air they provide and the pleasant, calming and natural scents they emit.
The polluted air in the home
NASA scientists have showed that many common synthetic building materials and house-hold furnishings, including certain plastics, can emit chemicals in gas form, known as off-gassing.
The same is true for common household products, such as cleaning sprays, shoe polish or air fresheners. In fact, more than 300 harmful compounds have been identified so far. Even at very low concentrations, harmful emissions from these products can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
Plants can help remove these harmful components from the air. They absorb them through their leaves and disperse them into the soil through their roots.
The greater the number of plants in a bedroom, the greater the reduction of air polluting particles. But NASA advise a ratio of roughly one air purifying plant for every 100 square feet.
They also recommend covering the soil in a plant pot with washed gravel; this will reduce the exposure of damp soil to the air, meaning that the plant itself won’t release so many particles of mold, moss or fungi into the bedroom.
Finally, it’s best to have a combination of different types of plants in the bedroom. Different plants are more effective at different times of the day and under different light conditions. Having a mix of plants can therefore ensure that the air in your bedroom is being cleaned 24 hours a day.
So, what are the best plants to have on your bedside table? Below are a number of the most effective plans identified by NASA in their clean air study. Some might already be familiar to you, others may be more surprising.
The chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) was found by NASA to be one of the most effective plants at purifying household air. And their findings have since been replicated by other researchers.
Even better, chrysanthemums thrive in lower light conditions (direct sunlight can age the plant prematurely) meaning its cleaning effects aren’t as strongly linked to daylight.
Because you’re (probably) not trying to sleep during the day, the chrysanthemum is a great night time air cleaner.
It can clear away the unhealthy residual particles, such as benzene, which is produced when someone smokes in your house, as well as the airborne off-gas emitted by household paint and printers. This makes it a great addition to any bedroom.
2. Peace lily
Medical researchers have explored some of the wider applications of plants’ air purifying qualities. There’s growing evidence that these air purifying effects can have a positive impact on people recovering from operations.
The presence of peace lilies next to a hospital bed was shown to be positively associated with lower ratings of pain, anxiety and fatigue. So the peace lily appears to have benefits above and beyond aiding sleep.
Do remember that lilies don’t mix well with cats and some other animals, so if you might want to skip this one if you have pets in the home.
3. Snake plant
Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) are a widely grown perennial plant that thrive both inside and outside the home.
Different genus provide the owner with a beautiful variety of different shapes, patterns and colors in their leaves. It requires little care and attention – you’ll only need to water your snake plant once every 2-3 weeks.
The snake plant was rated by NASA as being one of the best at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen at night, helping keep your bedroom air in optimal condition.
Japanese researchers expanded on NASA’s work with snake plants, showing that these plants can absorb many different hazardous chemicals, such as chloroform, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene and xylene.
4. English Ivy
English ivy (hedera helix) is a vigorous climbing plant with rich, dark green leaves. This is another plant perfect for cleaning the air you breathe when asleep; it thrives in lower light conditions and lower temperatures.
You might picture English ivy covering the whole side of buildings, which would suggest that it’s an impractical plant to have in your bedroom.
However, the plant grows well in hanging baskets, which are easy to manage and move between rooms.
English ivy has been shown to absorb 60% of airborne mould in a room, as well as over 90% of airborne fecal particles that you would otherwise be breathing in as you sleep.
If you’re a fan of natural remedies, you may already be familiar with the versatile lavender plant (lavendula). You can buy lavender extracts and oils to help you relax and ease yourself into a good night’s sleep.
Unlike many of the other plants on this list, lavender plants aren’t particularly effective air purifiers. Instead, the idea is that they might help you sleep by releasing their distinctive aroma into your room throughout the day.
Lavender fragrance has been shown to decrease your heart rate and increase activity in regions of the brain associated with relaxation and sleep.
So Lavender plants would make a great addition to the bedroom in combination with air purifying plants – giving you the benefit of both cleaner and more fragrant air.
6. Flamingo lily
Another low light plant that thrives indoors, the striking evergreen flamingo lily (Anthurium andraeanum) is both a beautiful plant and an effective air purifier. The flamingo lily should be kept out of direct sunlight and maintained at a consistent room temperature.
One note of caution: whilst the flamingo lily has been found to be effective at removing toxins from the air, owners should keep it away from small children and pets.
The foliage itself contains low levels of calcium oxalate, which can cause irritation if it comes into contact with your skin.
7. Golden Pothos
The golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum, also known as devil’s ivy) is a cheap, widely available and easy to maintain potted plant. NASA scientists found that golden pothos was able to remove particles of benzene and carbon monoxide from the air, even in an unventilated room.
This shows that potted plants can be a real asset for sleepers who are sensitive to the cold, or who otherwise can’t effectively ventilate their bedrooms at night.
8. Chinese Evergreens
Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema) have been shown to have “a tremendous effect” on reducing unwanted, sleep disrupting airborne particles.
However, unlike other plants on this list, its effects are most noted in strong sunlight. You may want to use Chinese evergreens in combination with other plants to balance out the purifying and air cleansing effects throughout the day.
The blossoms of the valerian plant (Valeriana officinalis) have long been prized for their delicate, relaxing aroma. However, most of the evidence was from people who had taken valerian extracts.
Scientists have shown that simply inhaling the scent of Valerian has a positive effect on the length and quality of your sleep. In fact, Valerian was found to be the most effective of 10 plants studied.
Valerian on its own might not be enough to help you sleep. Unlike many of the plants on this list, valerian has not been studied for its air purifying qualities. This means that valerian may work best in conjunction with some of the purifying plants on this list.
10. Dwarf date palm
The dwarf date palm (also known as Roebelenii, proper name phoenix roebelenii) is a common potted plant that naturally grows widely in the wild in Japan. Roebelenii is now a typical sight in many offices and homes.
Roebelenii has significant air purifying powers. Researchers have also sought to examine the stress reducing effects of the plant. They measured the levels of stress-related enzymes in participants’ saliva and found that they decreased in the presence of Roebelenii.
This shows a direct link between Roebelenii and stress reduction; stress is reduced just by being in the presence of the plant.
Grow fresh air in your home
In the fascinating Ted Talk video below, you can find out about 3 ideal plants to keep in your home to grow all the fresh air you need.
As the speaker says, you could be in a sealed bottle with these 3 plants and you’d have enough breathable air to survive!
Which plants do you have in your bedroom?
Do you have any plants in your bedroom? If you do, what made you choose the plant(s)?
I’d love to hear your view in the comments below!