Health through gardening Houseplants

The 10 Best Indoor Houseplants to Help You Sleep?

The 10 best houseplants to help you sleep? More like the zero best plants!

There is so much misinformation out there about gardening that I’m at a loss for words! Do a web search on “sleep-inducing houseplants” and you’ll find articles galore, especially in lifestyle magazines.

Dog sleeping near a plant
Does this plant help the dog to sleep? Photo: PxHere.

Supposed Virtues of Houseplants

The supposed virtues of indoor plants for sleep? Air purification, relief of joint pain and nausea, reduction of blood pressure and heart rate, increased humidity, decreased anxiety. It’s a miracle cure! One article even suggests that a cactus placed near electronic devices protects us from electromagnetic waves (I won’t even waste time denying this nonsense, but others have!)

The truth is that, apart from the happiness and actual well-being they bring us, houseplants will not replace medication or natural products and are not particularly sleep-inducing.

Air purifier
An air purifier will be more effective than house plants in filtering the air. Photo: HS You.

Myths to Debunk

For starters, we now know that houseplants are not experts in air purification. While they can clean the air of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a small, controlled environment, it would take hundreds of plants per room to have a measurable effect. It’s much easier to open a window to “change the air” if you don’t already have a purifier or air exchanger.

Since the soil in which our houseplants grow contains water, there is a slight, very localized increase in humidity when watering. If there really was an increase, the effect could be beneficial, especially in winter when the air in our homes tends to be dry. But the positive effect of watering on humidity is not only negligible, but evaporation will soon eliminate this small benefit. In fact, it’s better to use a humidifier in winter because our plants suffer from dry air rather than eliminate it.

Lavender flowers in a field
Lavender is said to have sleep-inducing properties, but its cultivation is not suitable for bedroom conditions. Photo: Spiterman.

Bringing the Outside In?

Another major problem with studies that try to demonstrate a positive effect on sleep is that the plants used are outdoor plants! One plant often cited in articles on the subject is lavender, whose scent is said to improve sleep quality. But, to my knowledge, it’s almost impossible to grow it indoors. For starters, it’s a plant that needs a lot of light even outdoors, so it’s unlikely to get enough indoors. Also, lavender requires cool temperatures at night, especially in the fall, when it’s suggested to lower the temperature to 10°C. In fact, you are trying to simulate outdoor conditions, a waste of time, in my opinion. It would be more efficient to buy dried lavender or essential oils.

Other plants studied for their effect on sleep? Cilantro, strawberry, ylang-ylang, basil, all plants that will be extremely difficult to grow indoors. Unless you want powerful grow lights in your bedroom, turned on at least 12 hours a day, ditch the project and choose more typical houseplants as roommates.

Indoor plants in a bedroom
Plants in the bedroom are safe. Photo: cottonbro studio.

Danger of Plants in the Bedroom?

During the day, plants absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen (O2). At night, since they have no light to transform into glucose, they release CO2. The process is, in a way, reversed. An urban legend says that we should not keep plants in our bedrooms because we risk CO2 poisoning. In reality, plants don’t release enough carbon dioxide to have a harmful effect on humans, who themselves produce much more. It’s therefore perfectly safe to have indoor plants on our bedside tables.

Person at a desk surrounded by plants
Houseplants do not necessarily help you sleep, but they have multiple benefits for human health. Photo: RODNAE Productions.

Real Benefits

We already know that the presence of plants in our environment reduces stress levels, relieves people suffering from depression and anxiety, improves our attention span, helps us heal faster, and increases productivity and creativity in the workplace.

One study shows that a 15-minute interaction with plants before bedtime in an isolated environment reduces stress, sleep latency, and the number of microawakenings. However, this study was conducted in an enclosed environment similar to astronauts in a spacecraft, so we cannot extrapolate this information to our situation. Another study shows that the mere sight of a bamboo plant induces relaxation!

So what’s the truth about houseplants and sleep? Does the well-being that houseplants bring help us catch some Zs? We can’t say for sure, but it’s a possibility. More studies need to be done on the subject to understand the how and why. In the meantime, I already have several plants in my bedroom. They are beautiful and I enjoy seeing and caring for them. I sleep well, on my own, whether it is thanks to my plants or not! As for you, dear readers, if you really insist on having a plant helps you sleep, you may have to smoke it…

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

8 comments on “The 10 Best Indoor Houseplants to Help You Sleep?

  1. That is some great inspiration! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Homepage

  3. Granny Pat

    Oh,.my, oh,.my. Smoke it! Hilarious! Love it! Thanks for the myth busting post and for the laugh.

  4. I found this topic to be amusing for an irrelevant reason. Before moving into town, I used to live and sleep outside and amongst the redwoods for much of the year; although they are not classified as houseplants.

  5. Donna Slater

    Well said!

  6. Good morning, Mathieu. As always, I enjoyed reading your post. This morning’s made me laugh. I’m so glad that you’ve kept your dad’s blog going.

  7. Mary L Discuillo

    Thanks for the debunk info on plants. Last line esp funny. I did not realize plants re-release CO2 at night. Based on that then how do plants overall help our global warming and ultimately lower the levels? Do they release less than they take in? Thanks for taking the time to continue your dad’s work .You know he is smiling.

    • Bryanna Keseloff

      They do it by utilizing the extra carbon to increase their biomass, In other words, they sequester carbon by getting bigger.

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