Houseplants will Supercharge your Sleep

You don't have to have a green thumb to reap the benefits of houseplants in your home. A how-to checklist to get you started.

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Bringing nature indoors can clean your air, improve your health, relax you and even help you sleep.

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NASA scientists discovered this when they investigated how to clean the air on their space stations. Their Clean Air Study found that certain plants remove pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia from the air—chemicals that have been linked to health effects like headaches and eye irritation. Air pollution has also been linked to psychiatric symptoms, such as depression and changes in mood and behavior, according to an article in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.

Of course, plants also absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Being in nature has been shown to help relax you – decreasing blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety, according to Forest Medicine Research in Japan. Their study showed that even indoor stimulation of forestry reduced anxiety. Bringing nature indoors can have wondrous effects, according to a study presented at IEEE Advancing Technology for Humanity Conference (and help children, according to an Oregon State University study).

Here's how to get started.


Where should you plant your foliage? Begin small, perhaps in the privacy of your bedroom so you can breathe in the benefits while you sleep. You'll need access to light, and of course space. Window sills work — you don't have to start with a giant ficus.


Plants need light to live, but just like humans, they don't need constant sunlight. Houseplants usually thrive near windows that get direct sun only some of the day. Review the plant's instructions about its needs.

Consider the light a room gets:

  • Direct light, from sunny south or southwest-facing windows
  • Indirect light, from east-facing windows, or places rooms away from the windows
  • Low light, from darker windows or north-facing sunlight or low light.


Plants need a steady climate. Don't place them near a drafty window, a fireplace or a vent. Most will thrive in temperatures of 65° – 75° F during the day and 10 degrees lower at night. Temps lower than 55° don't work for most plants, so you might reconsider leaving them near a drafty window in winter.


Is this a first responsibility for your 'tween or teenager to prove she can care for a pet? Or is the plant going to enliven a grandparent's room? Maybe it's yet another responsibility for an overworked parent. No matter who's in charge, they will need regular watering and pruning. Talking to plants is optional.


In a Ted Talk called “How to Grow Your Own Fresh Air," Kamal Meattle, a New Delhi resident, said the pollution was so bad, “I became allergic to the ambient air."

Three plants common to the U.S. can start purifying your indoors, he says. Mother-in-law's tongue, or the snake plant, is often called "the bedroom plant" because it works at night to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. The areca palm also removed carbon dioxide, and the so-called money plant, which removes formaldehydes and other chemicals.

After putting a number of plants in the building, "there is a reduced incidence of eye irritation by 52%, respiratory systems by 34% headaches by 24% percent and lung impairments by 12%," Meattle says.


Maybe you have a jasmine eye mask or a lavender sachet under your pillow—you could also bring these soothing plants into your bedroom. Jasmine reduces anxiety, lavender reduces stress, aloe vera produces oxygen at night, and gardenias and valerian can improve the quality of sleep.

Whatever plants you begin with, start slowly. See how long it takes your thumb to turn green, your stress to decompress and you to slumber soundly surrounded by nature.

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