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”
At first glance, 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” does affect your sleep quality and how you relax at night. However, I couldn’t find any scientific publications that support this claim.
What I did find is that plants affect your bedroom air quality, and therefore, your bedroom’s Feng Shui to some extent. Plants affect the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and both directly impact your sleep quality, according to science.
Before I tell you what I think, let me present my findings from the scientific community. If you want to skip the science reports and see what I think about Feng Shui plants in bedroom, scroll to the bottom section called “Putting Science Together with Feng Shui and Historical Context”
Plants Release Carbon Dioxide at Night
If you think that plants only produce oxygen, you are in for a surprise.
According to the 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.
What’s more, as global temperatures continue to rise, the amount of carbon dioxide released from plants during respiration is expected to increase according to another study conducted by the Australian National University, Western Sydney University, and other centers around the world. While plants will still absorb more carbon dioxide than they emit, this increase can have a cumulative effect, especially inside an enclosed space like a bedroom.
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 a classroom where you share the air with others in a confined space, then 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 may cause you to toss and turn more often when you have excess carbon dioxide in your bloodstream.
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:
In particular, the video mentions the Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), also known as the Bedroom Plant. The speaker suggests around six to eight waist-high plants per person inside an enclosed building to get the most out of this particular respiratory action. Two other notable plants in the video include the Arcera Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) and the Money Plant (Epipremnum aureum). These common plants also have the added benefit of reducing the amount of airborne volatile organic compounds from household products like aerosol sprays and disinfectants.
If space is an issue, there are also smaller plants (like the spider plant and the Boston fern) that can be placed inside a bedroom while having the same effect inside the space. These plants were first included in a study conducted by NASA in the 1980s. Scientists were trying to find ways to improve air quality inside a sealed spacecraft during the duration of a space mission.
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 release 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.
Furthermore, 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 both 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.
Putting Science Together with Feng Shui and Historical Context
The cited science reports above tell us that too much oxygen or carbon dioxide can impact our sleep negatively. Now the question is, can plants produce enough oxygen or carbon dioxide to affect our sleep?
Of course, this depends on (1) the number of plants in the bedroom and (2) the size of the bedroom and (3) the kinds of plants in the bedroom.
The more the plants, the more their ability to alter air quality. You also have to consider that the bigger the size of the bedroom, the more air there is for the plants to alter. And of course, it depends on whether plants that produce oxygen at night are placed in your bedroom.
However, it is also true that humans produce more carbon dioxide than plants. Then, with the same line of reasoning, this statement should also be true: Feng Shui doesn’t like more people sleeping in the bedroom with you.
Furthermore, the human is also growing (bigger or older) and produces energy!
Well, let’s take a step back and think about Feng Shui.
Feng Shui, if you don’t already know, was created a loooong time ago. Some concepts are based on precise calculations, and some are based on experience and passed down through culture.
As for plants in the bedroom, it is neither in the Form School or the Compass School of Feng Shui. This makes it more of an experience passed down through generations.
To understand why this is an experience, let’s take a look at the living conditions of our predecessors.
In ancient China, most people are peasants. Thus, I can safely assume that many people share a room together.
Also in ancient times, people had no idea what oxygen or carbon dioxide is, and how it affects us. This is also true for which plants produce what at night is also unknown.
But if someone were to put plants in a room full of people, I can safely assume, based on chance and probability, that the plant produces carbon dioxide at night. Thus, more carbon dioxide will be added to the room, which will worsen people’s sleep exponentially.
That is why I think Feng Shui doesn’t like plants in the bedroom. That concept is based on a historical context which is no longer true in today’s living standards and knowledge we have.
Strictly speaking, your bedroom has one purpose – sleep. And because plants have the ability to affect our sleep (positively or negatively), they can therefore be used for bedroom feng shui.
For instance, if you share a room with 2 other roommates (like in a college dorm), then placing some oxygen producing plants may help lower the room’s carbon dioxide level.
However, everyone has different sleep requirements. Therefore, it is better to test the type of plant and the number of plants before deciding whether plants are suitable for your bedroom.
Over to you. Do you think plants are suitable for the bedroom? I would love to hear your thoughts. Share it with me in the comment below!