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Is it Safe to Have Plants in Your Bedroom?

"Is it OK to have plants in my bedroom?"

It's fairly common to hear, "you shouldn't keep houseplants in the bedroom because they're not safe". This is based on the fact that most plants will release Carbon Dioxide and absorb Oxygen from the air while you're sleeping.

It's totally true that many houseplants do this. But the reality is that the amount of Carbon Dioxide released and Oxygen absorbed is minimal (figures will be given and explained a little later). This means that it's absolutely safe to have plants in your bedroom.

I'm actually going to go one step further and make the case that in most cases, it's highly beneficial to have plants in your bedroom and I'll be telling you the reasons why.

A snake plant in a bedroom growing in bright light

A bedside table makes a perfect spot for this Snake Plant (Mother-in-Law's Tongue). One of the best bedroom plants that doesn't need much care and will put up with both indirect light or direct sunlight.

Exploring the Carbon Dioxide Myth

Like any popular and enduring myth, there is always an element of truth to it. Not to get too sciencey, but here it is.

During the day plants will have access to daylight and they'll be busy using sunlight to make food by photosynthesis.

This involves taking air into their leaves through tiny holes called stomata, extracting the Carbon Dioxide (C02) from the air and then breaking it down to release Glucose and Oxygen (O2). The chemical formula for this is:

Photosynthesis

Carbon dioxide + water ➞ glucose + oxygen.

During the night, darkness will stop the process and it goes into reverse. The plant uses the glucose it's produced during the day, which is broken down, releasing some water and carbon dioxide in the process. The chemical formula is the same as above but in reverse.

Respiration

Oxygen + glucose ➞ water + carbon dioxide.

So yes, the myth has truth to it. It's factually correct to say that many houseplants will release Carbon dioxide during the night.

It's factually correct to say that many houseplants will release Carbon dioxide during the night.

However, the rate of plant respiration during the night needs major context. It's a small amount. Like really, really small. In just ONE human exhale, the average amount of CO2 is around 35,000 parts per million (ppm).

In 2015 this study looked at how much a Ficus, Yucca and a Croton houseplant, increased the CO2 in the air over an entire night period. The results were that the Ficus increased it by 351 ppm, the Yucca by 310 ppm and the Croton at 84 ppm.

Bear in mind this was the total amount over an entire night of around 8 hours or so vs the 35,000 ppm produced by one human in one single breath. This is how that data looks in a pie chart (It's interactive - you can click things).



The Ficus released the most CO2, but it's minuscule compared to a person's emissions. You'd need to have 100 Ficus plants in your bedroom to equal the CO2 generated by just one of your inhale and exhales. In other words - what you've just put into the air around you while reading this paragraph.

Houseplants aren't going to cause you health issues or generate unhealthy levels of CO2 in your bedroom while you sleep. That's also factually correct.

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Exploring the Oxygen Myth

Okay so we've clearly shown the amount of Carbon Dioxide plants release at night is minimal. But what about the other argument out there that they absorb Oxygen from the room?

As mentioned already, at night plants respire. This means they're busy breaking down that glucose created during the day, into energy. This process requires 6 molecules of O2 for every 1 glucose molecule broken down.

This might sound like a lot of O2 being taken from the air, but again you have to put this in context.

Respiration produces 6 CO2 molecules as a waste product for every glucose molecule broken down. From our earlier example, we looked at a study that recorded how much CO2 was produced by plants over an entire night. This ranged from 84 ppm to 351 ppm. So we already know that the amount of O2 molecules being used for respiration will be similar.

So again, it's factually correct for someone to say that most houseplants will absorb Oxygen from your bedroom at night.

In general conditions, it's roughly estimated there is around 209,500 ppm of Oxygen molecules in the air we breathe. So even the Ficus with the highest absorption of O2 is only using 0.17% of that over the entire night period.

We also don't live in sealed boxes, so any molecules being taken out of the air are just replaced through the basic ventilation found in our homes.

There are no directly comparable studies regarding people. Still, it should already be clear a person in one single inhale is going to absorb hundreds of times more O2 than any houseplant would over the entire night of 8 or so hours.

So again it's factually correct for someone to say that most houseplants will absorb Oxygen from your bedroom at night. But it's also accurate to say the amount they take is tiny and the impact on Oxygen levels is not even worth being bothered about.

Do indoor plants release carbon monoxide?

No, they do not. To be clear, Carbon Monoxide is definitely not created or released by houseplants. The incomplete combustion of fuels produces it. As this has nothing to do with houseplants we don't have anything to add, but this website has information if you want to learn more.

Why plants in the bedroom should be avoided

The gases bedroom plants absorb or give out will not be a problem for you or cause sleep issues. But certain plants or placements might not be a good fit for a few practical reasons.

  • Falling Hazard.
    This comes down to personal choice. But I will never have houseplants above the bed. I love new display ideas, but it's a big no for things over my head.

    I just don't like the idea of something coming unstuck or falling on me while I'm sleeping. It creeps me out.
  • Darkness + Brush Past.
    Everyone knows that when you have to get up in the night, you're "not quite awake" and can easily stumble in your half sleepy state. There could be trouble if there are any plants on route with thorns, spines, or sharp edges.

    I think that's all I need to say here. Just pick your bedroom guests carefully for your safety and theirs and you're good.
  • It might not be good "Feng Shui".
    Although many Feng shui experts encourage some indoor greenery in the bedroom, they do caution that too many plants can have the opposite effect and negatively affect your sleeping patterns.

    We might explore this topic in more detail in the future, but it's worth considering that if you regularly have poor sleep, it could be down to the number of plants in the room. Of course this one will depend if you believe in this movement or not.
A Euphorbia Trigona that has fallen over

A bedroom can be a small space, so it might not be the best choice to have plants close to where you pass by, or they might get knocked over in the darkness. If you can, tuck it away in the corner of your bedroom instead.

Why plants in the bedroom should be encouraged

I could go on for ages about how much I love houseplants and why I think they're great companions to share your living spaces with. But here are some specific points relating to bedrooms supported by research.

  • Houseplants can help you sleep better by creating a tranquil space.
    For most people, bedrooms are peaceful, quiet and relaxing spaces. And there isn't much more relaxing than being surrounded by plants in your own urban jungle, especially if you're a plant lover. In general, people find them comforting and calming which can reduce stress levels and encourage deep sleep.

    Several studies over the decades show that plants can speed up recovery times for patients in hospitals and needing less pain relief. Another showed people reported feeling less stressed when in spaces that had houseplants around them.
  • They can improve Acoustics.
    Noise pollution can disturb your sleep and affect your mental health in the long term.

    Plants can drastically alter how sound travels through the air. They can't "block" sound from noisy neighbors or anything like that, but as this study shows, they can quieten the room by absorbing some sounds and reducing reverberation and echoes.
  • Humidity Boost.
    If you've read all of this article, you will already know that plants will produce water vapor as a waste product of photosynthesis. This escapes into the air before diffusing around the room and boosting humidity levels. A study showed that if you filled just 2% of the bedroom with plants, it could increase the relative humidity in the room by 5%.

    This is important, as dry air has been linked to negative health issues in humans. These problems can make it hard to get a good night's sleep, so houseplants will act as natural humidifiers.
  • Dust Reduction.
    One study from 1996 showed that a few plants in a room could reduce dust by around 20%. Anyone with allergies will know how dust can be a trigger, so finding natural and easy ways to minimise this is always a good thing.
  • Air Cleaning.
    Some of the most popular research was the NASA study, that showed in small spaces houseplants were capable of improving indoor air quality by taking in and breaking down common indoor air pollutants.

    Some of the best plants featuring on NASA's list are the Areca palm, Lady Palm, Peace Lily and the Spider Plant. Although it's worth mentioning that it's heavily debated how effective they are at doing this in everyday settings.
Bird's Nest Fern growing next to a mirrored wardrobe

A common misconception is that you shouldn't have houseplants in your bedrooms. But with enough light, it's a fantastic way to encourage good health in your sleeping space.

Let's Sum Up

Most plants will indeed will release Carbon Dioxide and absorb Oxygen from the surrounding air while you're sleeping.

However, this gaseous exchange over an entire night is minimal. They don't produce enough carbon dioxide to cause negative effects. When you compare how much you produce or consume compared to the plants, it should immediately become a non-issue.

Still not convinced?
Some houseplants work backwards and produce small amounts of O2 and only give out CO2 during the daytime. This is due to a type of photosynthesis called "Crassulacean Acid Metabolism". We list the plants that do this in our article "Best Houseplants to grow in the Bedroom".

It's therefore completely safe to have houseplants in your bedroom. Both during the day and at night.

On the contrary, they're a great addition. I think it's fair to argue that the health benefits, including reducing stress levels and the sense of well being that you can gain (as well as the net increase in Oxygen given off during daylight hours) more than compensates for what they get up to at night.

Let us know what you think. Have you always slept with houseplants or has this been something that's worried you before now?



About the Author

Tom Knight

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years, Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the .

Also on Ourhouseplants.com


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