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Better sleep and air quality thanks to houseplants

Sansevieria Mikado
Sansevieria Mikado

Is there a doctor in the house? Yes, if you have houseplants. Caroline Knight from Perfect Plants examines the role a few pots of greenery can perform in boosting our health.

Ask a depressed person about their sleeping habits – they’re likely to tell you that their quality of sleep is poor. Many have trouble getting to sleep; staying asleep; getting up in the morning and being restless during the night. We all need a decent night’s sleep in order to function well.

Good news! Did you know that there’s a range of plants that work the opposite way around to other plants? These give out oxygen at night and absorb carbon dioxide, making excellent bedroom companions.

Most plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the day during photosynthesis. At night, they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This is why plants used to be taken out of the bedroom at night.

Aloe vera
Aloe vera

However, some desert plants perform a different type of photosynthesis. They don’t open their stomata (tiny holes in the foliage) during the day in case they lose moisture, so their foliage releases oxygen at night. In addition, they absorb the carbon dioxide that we exhale.

So which plants are best at providing the perfect bedroom atmosphere? Most succulents are outstanding. The clue lies within their leaves, which are fleshy in order to store water.

Sansevieria, (snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue), is a really good one and also absorbs potentially harmful chemicals.

Schlumbergera (Easter and Christmas cactus) are excellent, as are bromeliads and orchids from jungle environments.

Beaucarnea recurvata (the ponytail palm), which stores water in its trunk, releases oxygen at night. Cacti and Aloe plants, including Aloe vera, do the same thing.

‘Growing’ fresh air has the potential to make a huge difference to those who want to improve the quality of their sleep.

Filtering air, fighting disease

Colourful mix of Dracaena Lemon Lime and Codiaeum. Pictures; Perfect Plants
A colourful mix of Dracaena Lemon Lime and Codiaeum. Pictures; Perfect Plants

Houseplants in general, absorb gases and impurities. These include benzene, pesticides, formaldehyde, detergent and air pollutants. Ozone has been linked to many conditions and diseases, including asthma, cancer, and respiratory illnesses.

How do we know that plants can do this remarkable thing (known as phytoremediation)? Studies carried out by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) have shown that houseplants were able to remove up to 87 per cent of air toxins in a 24-hour period.

Some plants are better at this than others, but all have the ability to clean the environment around them.

Microorganisms living in the soil of potted plants also play an important role. You need a plant for approximately every 8 square metres of indoor space. Indoor air has been measured as being about 12 times more polluted than outside air.

Battling colds and sore throats

Dracaena Tiger's Bamboo
Dracaena Tiger’s Bamboo

Houseplants can help you fight colds and sore throats, according to a study by the University of Agriculture in Norway.

The research showed a 30 per cent decrease in coughs, colds, sore throats and other cold-related symptoms in people occupying spaces that had adequate houseplants.

The reason? Plants help to increase humidity levels and decrease dust, as well as purifying the air.

Air within plant-filtered rooms contains up to 60 per cent fewer potentially harmful microbes, including mould spores and bacteria.

Right houseplant, right place

Which plants are best?

Rubber plant Belize
Rubber plant Belize
  • Weeping fig (Ficus)
  • Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria)
  • Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
  • Dragon tree (Dracaena)
  • Philodendron
  • Palms (many different varieties including Kentia and Areca palms)
  • Ferns (including Asplenium and Nephrolepis)
  • Devil’s ivy (Scindapsus)
  • Aloe vera
  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum)

All of these plants and more are available from www.perfectplants.co.uk; delivered to your door.