Do you keep any plants in your bedroom, adding a touch of natural color and beauty?
My personal favorite is a trailing spider plant that sits by the window. Not only is it fun to watch new shoots parachuting to the floor, but it’s also one of the best suited to the bedroom.
The plant kingdom is vast though, so how do we know which are healthy bedroom additions?
Fortunately, it turns out that the brilliant scientists at NASA also have a keen interest in plants.
NASA plant study
NASA conducted a fascinating study into plants, looking for those that emit oxygen rather than carbon dioxide at night.
They also found plants which act as natural air purifiers. So those can potentially help keep the air in your bedroom as fresh and oxygen-rich as possible.
You can see some of the specific plants they discovered below. But let’s first take a quick look at how the plants work their magic in the home.
How plants improve the bedroom conditions
NASA’s study suggests that having certain plants in your bedroom could improve your sleep, assuming your sleep is negatively affected by air quality. But how does this happen?
Plants are natural, powerful air purification systems. Their ability to improve your sleep comes from the fresh air they provide, and in some cases the pleasant and calming scents they emit.
The polluted air in the home
Many common synthetic building materials, household furnishings, and 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 more plants in a bedroom, the greater the reduction of air-polluting particles. But NASA advises a ratio of roughly one air purifying plant for every 100 square feet.
Combine plants for best effect
It’s best to have a mix of plants in the bedroom. The effectiveness of plants varies by time of day and light conditions. Having a mix of plants ensures 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 plants identified by NASA in their clean air study.
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.
Chrysanthemums thrive in lower light conditions (direct sunlight can age the plant prematurely). So 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 nighttime air cleaner.
It can clear residual particles, such as benzene, produced when someone smokes in your house. It also helps with the off-gas emitted by household paint and printers. This makes it a great addition to any bedroom.
2. Peace lily
Medical researchers have also explored 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 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 you might want to skip this one if you have pets in the home.
3. Snake plant
The snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a widely grown perennial that thrives both indoors and outside.
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 to 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 also found it can absorb many 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, and over 90% of airborne fecal particles.
If you’re a fan of natural remedies, you may already be familiar with the versatile lavender plant (lavendula).
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 bedroom.
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 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 it 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.
So it could be a good choice if you’re sensitive to the cold, or can’t effectively ventilate your bedroom 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.
In a study with rats, researchers found that inhaling the scent of valerian had a positive effect on 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 though. Unlike many of the plants on this list, it hasn’t been studied for its air purifying qualities. So it might 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) is a common potted plant that naturally grows widely in the wild in Japan.
Roebelenii has significant air purifying powers, but researchers have also sought to examine the stress-busting effects of the plant.
In one experiment, they measured the levels of stress-related enzymes in participants’ saliva and found that they decreased in the presence of Roebelenii.
Which plants do you have in your bedroom?
Do you have any plants in your bedroom? Please share your plant choice and reason for picking them in the comments below.