When designing a bedroom, most of us think about the basics like the bed, bedding, and other furniture, but what about the air?
Indoor air actually tends to contain higher concentrations of pollutants than outdoors due to chemicals from furniture, paint, carpet, cooking, household cleaning, and many other sources. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to respiratory and sinus irritation, fatigue, allergy and asthma symptoms, and dizziness, among other issues.
In the bedroom, choosing green, low-VOC furnishings, textiles, paints and cleaners helps reduce exposure, as does good ventilation, fresh air, and avoid smoking indoors.
Another way to boost breathability in your sleep space is by bringing in help from Mother Nature. In addition to sprucing up your decor, certain live plants can also double as a natural purifying system for indoor air.
Plants boost oxygen
Plants and greenery produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Having clean, well-oxygenated air at night is important for healthy circulation, which relies on oxygen to keep cells, organs and tissues healthy. It may also contribute to sleep quality. For example, one study conducted at high altitude (lower oxygen) found that oxygen enriched rooms resulted in more deep sleep and overall sleep compared to ambient air.
Plants help filter CO2 and pollutants
Plants also help clean the air and remove sources of indoor pollution. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide, a byproduct of people and animals breathing (as well as vehicle traffic). While CO2 is a natural part of air, higher levels have been associated with lethargy, difficulty breathing, restlessness and cognitive effects.
Certain plants can work to absorb other pollutants found indoors. A few of the more harmful ones that plants can help reduce include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide
Formaldehyde is one of the most common VOCs. It is an irritant and suspected carcinogen, often found in particle board, glues, varnishes, paints, foams, and cigarette smoke. Other potentially harmful VOCs related to household products include benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.
Carbon monoxide is produced as a byproduct of combustion, particularly from cooking on gas stoves, furnace leaks, cigarettes, and vehicles in attached garages. In low levels, it can cause headaches, disorientation and fatigue and at higher levels can be fatal.
Ideal plants for a healthier bedroom
When it comes to cleaning indoor air, not all plants and greenery are created equal. Certain species prove more efficient inside than others. NASA’s Clean Air Study tested a variety of indoor plants on their effectiveness for removing a range of indoor pollutants.
- In the study, the Peace Lily and Chrysanthemum morifolium targeted all five categories of pollutants – formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene, and ammonia. (Note: if you have cats or dogs, both lilies and mums can be toxic.)
- English Ivy, Snake Plants, and Red-edged dracaena helped remove everything but ammonia.
- Boston Ferns were found to be among the best filterers of formaldehyde, while Spider Plants help target carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
- Areca Palm is efficient for xylene and toluene, Bamboo Palm for formaldehyde, and Lady Palm and Weeping Fig for both.
Other plants target fewer toxins, but still provide benefits. For example, Aloe Vera works on benzene and formaldehyde, and it’s leaves also provide several practical household benefits. Aloe and Snake Plants also produce oxygen at night, making great bedroom additions.
Generally, the more plants the better when it comes to reducing pollutants. If your space is limited though, don’t worry! You don’t necessarily need to construct an indoor garden; even a couple of plants placed around the room can have an impact on air quality. If you lack a green thumb, opt for a hardy multitasker like snake plants, spider plants or English ivy.
Whichever greenery you choose, look for organic, pesticide-free plants and plant them in organic soil and low-VOC containers at home, as you don’t want to introduce more pollutants to your sleep space.
Do you keep plants indoors for healthier air? Which air-purifying flora do you find best for the bedroom?
Feature image courtesy of János Csongor Kerekes