Whether plants are suitable for the bedroom is a hotly debated topic.
On one side, some of us say that plants have a rightful place in the bedroom because they produce oxygen. On the other side, feng shui experts state that plants are not suitable for the bedroom because they produce energy that contradicts your sleep. Here are some explanations that I found:
Plants are tree/wood energy, meaning their focus is on upward movement. Sleep is a Yin event, where energy goes down and to the quiet, quite opposite of the plant energy. –Fawn Chang, “Feng Shui Bedroom for Health? What NOT to do!”
Plants have strong and vibrant energy of growth and movement – yang energy – which is not the feng shui energy recommended for the bedroom. –Rodika Tchi, “Feng Shui of Plants in the Bedroom”
When you have things growing while you are sleeping, you are contradicting your calm. –Dana Claudat, “Feng Shui and Plants in the Bedroom”
To me, these explanations make sense. Perhaps feng shui assumes most people wouldn’t want vibrant growth and liveliness happening right next to where you sleep. After all, farmers have long known that crops like corn and sorghum grow taller at night. According to the University of California, San Diego, this behavior is known as the “evening complex”.
Maybe the “evening complex” do affect your sleep quality and how you relax at night. However, I couldn’t find any scientific publications that supports this claim.
What I did find is that plants affect your bedroom air quality, and therefore, your bedroom’s feng shui. Plants affect the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and both directly impact your sleep quality.
Here are some of my findings from the scientific community.
Plants Release Carbon Dioxide at Night
If you think that plants produce oxygen only, you are in for a surprise.
According to University of California, Santa Barbara, plants give off about half of the carbon dioxide that they absorb in their lifetime.
Oxygen is produced when photosynthesis happens. A main ingredient for photosynthesis to take place is the presence of sunlight, where they convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar for food.
At night, however, photosynthesis cannot take place due to the lack of sunlight. As a result, they give off more carbon dioxide than they absorb, which is produced when they burn sugar as food to stay alive.
A similar statement was also made in the Ask a Scientist section of the U.S. Department of Energy, which states that plants release carbon dioxide during respiration at night.
A post on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) also published a similar finding, stating that plants need to respire, just like animals, to unlock the energy in carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis. The site also has an interactive image that shows the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide released by plants during both day and night.
But even if they release carbon dioxide and compete with you for oxygen, how do they affect your sleep?
How Carbon Dioxide Affects Sleep
If you’ve ever felt sleepy in a meeting room or classroom where you share the air with others in a confined space, you have a good idea of how carbon dioxide affects you. Higher levels of carbon dioxide in our blood can affect your concentration and make you drowsy, whereas mild levels of carbon dioxide in your blood stimulate sleep.
Since plants produce carbon dioxide at night, wouldn’t placing plants in the bedroom help you fall asleep easier and faster? Not quite.
In fact, as the night progresses, your bedroom will be filled with carbon dioxide, which can cause Hypercapnia, a condition where there is an abnormally high concentration of carbon dioxide in your blood. This condition normally triggers a reflex that increases your breathing pattern to access more oxygen.
Your brain regulates the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. So when your bedroom is filled with carbon dioxide, your breathing patterns will adjust, even when you’re asleep. You will tend to over-breathe, usually with short and frequent breaths, to compensate for the higher levels of carbon dioxide.
This change of breathing is how your sleep is disrupted. While you’re asleep, you will turn your head abruptly or move around in bed as you gasp for more oxygen.
This can also be the reason why some people find themselves sleeping better without their partner or significant other. Without a live human being that exhales carbon dioxide, your body will have less movements that wake you in the middle of the night.
Plants that Release Oxygen at Night
Not all plants release carbon dioxide at night. Some actually do the reverse, where they release carbon dioxide during the day and oxygen at night.
If you haven’t noticed, I love watching TED talks. The first time I learned about the existence of these types of plants was from watching this TED Talk by Kamal Meattle, embedded below:
Here’s the short scientific explanation as to why some plants have a reversed respiration cycle.
Oxygen produced by photosynthesis is trapped and cannot escape during the day. In some plants, this way of trapping oxygen is part of the plant’s DNA to protect them from loss of water from their leaves. At night time when temperatures cool down, the plants relax the pores to release the trapped oxygen.
If you want to learn more about its science, here’s a good explanation with links to two credible sources.
Since these plants produce oxygen at night, wouldn’t they be the perfect bedroom feng shui plants? Not really.
How Oxygen Affects Our Sleep
Our body needs oxygen to survive and stay active. However, we do not need as much oxygen when we go to sleep.
In fact, too much oxygen keeps us awake. For example, whenever you exercise, your blood circulates and brings more oxygen to your brain. When this happens, your mind becomes sharp and your drowsiness (if any) would go away. This is why people feel alert and awake right after a good exercise.
Other sources, such as Web MD and Fox News, have articles that teach us how to stay awake by practicing “deep breathing”, which increases oxygen intake and stimulates blood circulation to give us more energy.
So if you have plants that releases oxygen at night in your bedroom, you may find it harder to fall asleep, as you are likely to be more alert and energetic. Even if you’re asleep, you may find yourself only “sleeping lightly”, which is quite the opposite of what you want.
Further, higher levels of oxygen reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we have in our blood, which also negatively affects your sleep quality.
According to a study conducted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, researchers found that high levels and low levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream negatively impacted the amount of quality sleep. They concluded that mild levels of carbon dioxide in the blood resulted in the best sleep quality, measured by sleep disruptions and the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
If you’d like to read more about its findings and experimental procedures, here’s the full science report.
Strictly speaking, your bedroom has one purpose – sleep. And because plants affect how we sleep through our nights, they are therefore not suitable for bedroom feng shui.
Plants that produce oxygen make us sleep lightly or keep us awake longer, whereas plants that produce carbon dioxide make us toss around or gasp for air in the middle of the night.
Despite all of these, I think plants still have its place in some bedrooms.
For instance, if you have a large bedroom, placing a small or medium sized plant at one corner should have no effect on your air quality or sleep. The plant only breathes in the same room as you for about eight hours a day, and it should only affect the air quality in its surrounding area and not the whole room.
As for how the plant’s energy affects our sleep, that may be something I will explore in a later post.
Do you think plants are suitable for the bedroom? I would love to hear your thoughts. Share it with me in the comment below!
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