Are Plants Harmful or Helpful in the Bedroom

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by Green4553, Feb 14, 2009.

  1. Green4553

    Green4553 Member

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    There appears to be a divergence of views on the subject of whether plants in a bedroom are helpful or harmful to a person's health. My concern is whether the fact that plants release carbon dioxide, not oxygen, at night (and use oxgen at night) would significantly enough compromise the breathing air in a bedroom while a person is trying to sleep. A search of Google reveals the divergence of views, as follows:

    On the one hand, the knee-jerk answer seems to be that adding plants to a bedroom can only be helpful because plants clean the air of chemical toxins, add oxygen to the air during the day, do not release enough carbon dioxide at night or use enough oxgen at night to be harmful, and generally promote a cleaner indoor air environment in the bedroom.

    On the other hand, others contend that in Europe and apparently in New Mexico it is common knowledge that a person should not place plants in the bedroom because the plants release carbon dioxide at night and the presence of plants in the bedroom can be harmful and even fatal. Apparently some time ago in Britain, plants were removed from bedrooms at night for this reason. Google also revealed an article mentioning that regularly sleeping in a greenhouse would raise concerns for these reasons.

    (Feng shui experts also diverge on the matter with some saying plants in the bedroom are good, others saying they are bad, for reasons that are not biological per se in the particular realm of feng shui).

    (It should be noted that a handful of plants, such as the snake plant, release oxygen at night, not carbon dioxide, and have been suggested as aiding in sleep for this reason.)

    As a lay person, I am interested in learning whether there is more recent expertise out there on this subject and what people think in general about the matter who are famiiar with it, with a view towards providing the healthiest possible day-time and night-time environment in the bedroom. And, to that end, if plants do compromise the breathing air at night, what quantum of plants would we consider problematic in the average bedroom - one, two, three, four, five plants?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Yetat

    Yetat Active Member

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    Plant giving out Carbon Dioxide is not the only factor to consider when a person sleep in a greenhouse regularly, there are several other factor present in a green house when a normal environment would not have.

    Do the animals underneath the dense, tropical canopy of the rain forest die at night from lack of oxygen? I don't think so. If I'm not wrong, there are still other communities of people living in the jungle/forest around the world. Think about those that went camping in some National Parks too.

    Replace the plants with people, and think in the scenario of many people sleeping in bunks in a room. (Beside plants don't consumer that much oxygen as a breathing human). I don't think it will affect much. Also in most bed room, there is air circulation.
     
  3. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Well jeez. I live in the jungle, and it doesn't seem to bother me any at night - and this is a situation with high humidity and definitely more plants than people. I'm going to agree with Yetat on this one - I have never had any problems whatsoever with having a plant or two in my bedroom; in fact I've currently got a young Tangelo tree in there. I think that the Victorians were over-reacting, and we're dealing with folk wisdom that isn't necessarily true.

    Certainly, if you have, say, 100 large plants in your bedroom, they may begin to release a bit too much CO2, but I really don't think that's what you're talking about - if you've got 3 or 4, the benefits of having them there will outweigh whatever miniscule amount of CO2 they emit while respirating.
     
  4. Green4553

    Green4553 Member

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    Thanks. I guess I am looking for more rigorous analysis regarding this than the oft cited, knee-jerk response that "well, I have plants in my bedroom, and they don't bother me" or "people go camping all the time."

    One of the reasons why people place plants in their home is to address sick-home syndrome, and one of the problems with a so-called sick home is poor ventilation. So the argument that most bedrooms have good ventilation is inapposite to the very reason why many people place plants in a room: to address poor ventilation. A bedroom that has poor ventilation and plants in the room to help matters may actually - and here is where I need some real thorough clarification - be making matters worse since the emission of carbon dioxide at night will not be replaced with new fresh air due to the lacking ventilation. I don't know whether or not that would be true, by that is my hypothesis?

    To call the Victorian's concern about this "an old wives tale" is unreasonable because it ignores that their concern was entirely grounded in science - namely, that plants do release carbon dioxide at night - this is not some made up theory of how plants behave. It also seems to be - again, I am just trying to figure this out - that plants engage in lower levels of photosynthesis during the winter (and there is also less sunlight during winter for one's houseplants), so I am curious as to whether this would have an effect of lessening the release of oxygen during the day which in turn lessens how much oxygen is available in a room to offset the carbon dioxide released at night (and perhaps the quantum of carbon dioxide released at night is also impacted by winter).
     
  5. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Certainly the idea of placing plants in a poorly ventilated area in order to "improve ventilation" is fallacious - the issue is air circulation, not air recycling, which is what plants address. Plants do tend to photosynthesize less during the northern winter - this is a function of the reduced light availability. If they are provided with good indoor lighting, they will slow a bit (due to their natural cycle) but certainly not as much as say, a dormant tree outdoors does. Now, because our hypothetical plant is in a somewhat dormant state, it will not be respiring at the same rate it does in the summertime when it is active - this means that the CO2 produced will naturally be less.

    Take a look at the photosynthetic cycle and compare it to the respiration cycle to see how many molecules of oxygen are released by the chemical reactions in the plant, vs. how many molecules of CO2 are released by the respiration reaction. This should give you a baseline for whether the plant will produce more net O2 or CO2.

    You'd probably have to do your own experiments on the amounts of CO2 emitted in an ill-ventilated room as offset by the oxygen emitted by the plants during the daytime. In a totally hermetic environment, the CO2 debt will eventually kill the plants, but it will take much longer than if they were simply placed in an anoxic environment. Personally, through both my scientific experience with the plants, as well as my empiric observations, there is no problem having a few plants in one's bedroom to improve air quality. I stress a few, because I don't know your ventilation conditions.

    Personally, I don't have glass in my windows (only screen) so I don't have any issue whatsoever with air circulation. You're in Canada, which is pretty vague - if you're in the far North (as I used to be) your circulation will naturally be poorer since you can't really open your windows during the winter.
     
  6. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Alright, a cursory glance into my Biology books tells me that photosynthesis consumes 6 molecules of carbon dioxide and emits 6 of oxygen and one of glucose. Respiration is essentially the reverse, however since plants respirate at a slower rate than they photosynthsize, there is a net gain of 2-3 molecules of oxygen per cycle.

    How's that?
     
  7. Green4553

    Green4553 Member

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    aLorax,

    That's great. Thanks :-). So let me pick your brain a bit more. The net gain of 2 or 3 oxygen molecules - would that still be the case in winter? I assume you would say yes since the plant is on a whole in a more dormant state, releasing both less oxygen during the day and less carbon dioxide night? Likewise, if we closed the windows and left the plants in the room for a few days (with little or no light) we would be mimicking winter-like conditions - and the dormant state would mean both less oxygen and less carbon dioxide, I assume. So if we had a truly sealed environment under lab conditions but with oxygen in the room initially, you were saying that the plant will eventually die due to a lack of carbon dioxide since the net per cycle is an oxygen gain and plants need carbon dioxide?
     
  8. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Yes - the photosynthetic and respiration processes slow at the same rate during partial dormancy. And yes - even in a lab condition with 100% O2, the plant would eventually suffocate - however since the cells have regulatory systems for hyperoxic situations, the plant might also switch to pure respiration until such time as it had enough CO2 in its environment to photosynthesise again - this is particularly true of c-3 photosynthesis plants. Neat, huh?

    Man, you're really making me do a refresher on Bio - I was always more interested in the actual molecular reactions of Organic Chem (and I took most of a degree of particle physics, to end up with an arts degree), so this is helping me to remember things I thought I had forgotten. Thanks!
     
  9. namawa

    namawa Active Member

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    I have nothing scientific to contribute here...but... yeah...I have *A LOT* of plants in my bedroom (and have for years)...I guess I'd best watch out...might wake up dead tomorrow!
     
  10. Green4553

    Green4553 Member

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    Lorax,

    Let me ask you again - just to make sure I have it correct man - in a lab environment with 100% oxygen initially, plants placed in that environment will ultimately cause the room to have more oxygen after several days or less oxygen? I guess the question could be asked this way as well, would the room have more oxygen (less carbon dioxide) which is good for humans, or less oxygen (more carbon dioxide) which is bad for humans? Thanks!
     
  11. Chungii V

    Chungii V Active Member

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    I can actually answer that as I have seen a recent documentary that touched on that subject-
    The levels pitch and fall through various times of the day. The highest oxygen reading was actually in the first few hours of the day as the plants changed over from respiration cycle. I was glad to hear this cause I've always had a theory of watering first thing in the morning is far more beneficial than later on that day. That was the only thing that seemed to stick to mind though. Obviously levels of CO2 were higher at night time I just can't remember though if O2 levels were actually down greatly at night or if CO2 were just higher.
    I can't be more specific but they had a meter which determined the levels of CO2 & O2 in the air. If I could ever remember the name of the doco (or maybe gardening show even) I'd recommend it.
     
  12. aldosettimio

    aldosettimio Member

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    I believe there is some misunderstanding here. The jungle you are living in (lucky you) is an open space place, while the greenhouse some friends of mine were living in (poor them) is a closed space place. That means no fresh air is coming in while these silent killer plants release their CO2 in the air you are breathing while you sleep..so you may not wake up the next day (like these friends of mine) and have a lot of people crying besides you. So please watch out, unless you are in a jungle, don't sleep with plants. Sleeping with girls is better.

    Cheers
     
  13. James D.

    James D. Active Member

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    I currently have about 20 plants in my bedroom ( large-ish room, big windows) and I haven't suffocated to death in the past countles number of years i have had plants in my bedroom. I think you will be fine if you have some plants in your bedroom at night.
     
  14. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Big windows is the key. Poor circulation is what kills people.
     
  15. James D.

    James D. Active Member

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    Yes, So unless you are sleeping in an air tight room with tonnes of plants in it, I think you will be ok.
     
  16. greenthumb95

    greenthumb95 Active Member

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    You took the words right out of my mouth. I actually think plants help you sleep. Having plants in my bedroom is relaxing and makes the room look nicer.
     
  17. markinwestmich

    markinwestmich Active Member

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    The amount of CO2 produced by yourself would far exceed any amount of CO2 produced by your houseplants. I wish I could quote the research article I read several years ago, but if I recall, it is on the order of 100:1 plant weight:animal weight. If this is true, then it would take 10,000kg of plants to produce similar amounts of CO2 as a 100kg person.

    The above posts are correct that air circulation is important, and realistically, most bedrooms are not sealed so tight as to place someone at risk for CO2 narcosis. However, even if the room were sealed and you were trapped in the room for several days without fresh air, it would be your own CO2 that would be the issue, not so much the plants.

    The fact is, that increasing CO2 levels actually increase respiratory rate and tidal volume in humans (and nearly all animals) due to chemoreceptors in the brain. It is what helps regulate our CO2 and pH in our blood. Therefore, any slight increases in CO2 within a bedroom (if they occur, at all), would increase your respiration.

    I am pretty sure that quite a bit of this information on the internet is nothing but "urban myth" and holds very little truth.
     
  18. LOLtoofunnymang

    LOLtoofunnymang Member

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    I have this,

    Let me know if its a good set-up to improve oxygen levels while sleeping.

    ( which I'm assuming is the reason for asking this question )

    -3 terrariums/glass
    -each have drainage at bottom
    -ventilation ( fine plastic mesh hole one side, reverse side fan pulling air with filter in front to keep anything from fan ) pulling old air out and new air in.
    -lights.. lol
    -24 hour timer set so that when I go to sleep ( 10 pm ) the lights go on, and turn off 4 pm following day.
    -Special plastic sleeve like material, black on the side facing view ( so you can sleep xD ) and white on the inside to reflect light to the little babies :D

    I know you wonder why have it so you can't see the plants. But I have the sleeve stuff so you can open it upwards like a curtain to show.

    Main reason is for myself to have habanero's and other chilli's year round. But my mom only allows it in my bedroom because of space.
    Then she read that it could be bad because of oxygen and carbon dioxide and all. Im trying to keep my peppers.

    BUT I DONT WANT TO DIE D:

    Please science people, will this actually improve the oxygen levels during my sleep?

    Changing the light cycle is always do-able, but I figured if its releasing oxygen during the day, then Ill make it's day during my night.
     
  19. Barbara Lloyd

    Barbara Lloyd Well-Known Member

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  20. mrsubjunctive

    mrsubjunctive Active Member

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    @LOLtoofunnymang:

    No, your set-up will have no meaningful effect on your personal oxygen level, or the amount of oxygen in your room.

    The good news is that there's no particular reason why you should want to have more oxygen in your body or room. Some oxygen is good, but that doesn't mean that more oxygen is better.

    People have been living (and sleeping!) in tropical rain forests for thousands of years without the whole population dying every night from carbon dioxide build-up. And there are way more plants in a rain forest than there are in your bedroom. If it was a problem, we'd have heard by now.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2012
  21. LOLtoofunnymang

    LOLtoofunnymang Member

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    Thank you Barbara Lloyd, that's actually perfect.

    @mrsubjunctive

    And when my Doctor says my oxygen levels are low and effecting my body and causing infections and respiratory problems -_- ....

    I suggest you stop being so general and remember people can have specific issues that need addressing.

    Might save a life?
     
  22. Michael F

    Michael F Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years of Activity

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    Any specific low oxygen issues will relate to other problems, such as using hermetically sealed bedrooms (totally draught-proof with no air exchange), or defective lungs on the patient (caused by e.g. smoking). Mrs Ubjunctive is right, sleeping close to plants isn't going to have any harmful effect.
     
  23. Dave T

    Dave T Member

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    I stumbled upon this thread in my ongoing research on improving indoor airquality through the use of both mechanical and natural air purification. I wanted to share some of my findings as well as look for further input and comment.

    In a normal bedroom that doesn't have unusually low ventilation, a few small plants will not cause any appreciable CO2 increase (beyond say having a small pet or another person in the room, neither of which ever is considered an issue). However the plants will be continually absorbing toxins from the air (the type will depend on the plants, some are better than others).

    For those who are particularly paranoid about Oxygen levels there is one plant, the Snake Plant also known as Mother in Laws Tongue which actually produces Oxygen at night and during the day. So put those in the bedroom.

    Finally have a look at this TED talk video it really shows how a few plants per person can make a big difference in indoor air quality. http://www.ted.com/talks/kamal_meattle_on_how_to_grow_your_own_fresh_air.html

    So the conclusion for me would be is that they are beneficial for the air purifying effect of absorbing toxins. The only caveat is that if the plant or plant media has mold which you are allergic to.
     

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