I Put 3 Different Types of Plants in My Bedroom To Improve My Sleep for a Month—Here’s What Happened

Photo: getty.com/ Westend61
I’m what they call plant-obsessed. They’re trailing off shelves, sitting in window sills, hanging from ceilings... it’s like an extremely easy version of “Where’s Waldo?” where foliage is the star. Aside from the aesthetics, I’m also a fan of the benefits. Houseplants have been shown to improve concentration, help us heal, and boost mental health (hello, calming energy). One thing I’ve never thought about, however, is how a plant-filled room could improve my sleep.

According to Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, turning your bedroom into an urban jungle could pay off when it comes to getting quality shut-eye. “Having plants in your bedroom may help improve sleep for some by enhancing the air quality, reducing stress, and providing other psychological benefits,” she says. Those other psychological benefits are aplenty. A 2021 study published in the journal Environmental Research found during the stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, those who had houseplants or access to a garden experienced reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another 2019 study published in Sustainability found being exposed to plants increases levels of comfort and positive emotions.

“Having plants in your bedroom may help improve sleep for some by enhancing the air quality, reducing stress, and providing other psychological benefits.” —Shelby Harris, PsyD

If you live in a noisy area, Dr. Harris says some larger plants can even help absorb sound and reduce background noise in your bedroom. “This can be particularly beneficial if you live in a noisy neighborhood or apartment building that can disturb your sleep,” she says.

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Overall, the science doesn't lie—adding houseplants can bring relaxing vibes to your bedroom, and there are a few in particular that Dr. Harris says can better your sleep.

3 sleep doctor-approved plants that can benefit your sleep

1. Snake plants

Fun fact: The snake plant has been dubbed "the bedroom plant" due to its using crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis. That's a fancy way of saying they keep their stomata (aka the tiny pores on their leaves) closed during the daytime hours, then open them up at night, which—in turn—releases oxygen.

But don't swap out your HEPA filter just yet. While Dr. Harris says this ability makes them ideal for bedrooms, you'd need a lot of snake plants (we're talking a room full!) in order to notice a major difference in terms of air quality. With that being said, every little bit of improvement helps—and, like all houseplants, snake plants still bring on the relaxing, stress-reducing benefits that are ideal for sleep.

2. Lavender

Lavender isn’t just for mood-boosting morning lattes. Dr. Harris says getting a whiff of its pleasant smell is ideal as you relax in bed, too. “The smell that a lavender plant produces can help you drift off to sleep,” she says. “It’s known to reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels, making it an ideal bedroom plant.”

3. Aloe vera

You may already use aloe vera for the healing gel within its leaves. Dr. Harris says, like the snake plant, it's another type of CAM plant that releases oxygen at night. "Excess oxygen in the environment can be great for your sleep," she says. Again, even a handful of plants isn't going to drastically change the air quality in your bedroom, but that's not all the aloe vera plant has to offer. It's also known as a "positive energy plant," bringing good luck and optimism into your bedroom—and (hopefully) shooing away any bad bedtime vibes in the process.

Putting the theory to the test

I'd normally get an award for my sleeping skills. In the good ol' days, I'd pass out the second my head hit the pillow and couldn't be woken up until I was ready to wake up. Unfortunately, after three months of tossing and turning thanks to some recent life stress, I was ready to try just about anything to get back to my sleepy self. And a doc's order to invest in some new greenery sounded like the perfect place to start.

I decided to put Dr. Harris' top picks to the test for a month and see what happens. It was an easy change, too: I already had a snake plant and aloe vera plant in my collection, so I moved both upstairs to my bedroom. All I needed was a lavender plant, which I quickly found available online.

According to Dr. Harris, your best bet for reaping the sleep-inducing benefits of plants is placing them near your bed. “Consider adding them on a nightstand or hanging them in a pot or planter near the headboard,” she says. “Good air circulation is also important for plants’ health, so try to avoid placing plants in cramped corners or in areas with poor air ventilation.”

With the aloe vera plant and lavender on my nightstand, and the snake plant positioned on the floor right beside it, I went about my typical nighttime routine. (That typically involves a long and involved skin-care routine followed by reading the latest book in TBR pile.) Even though I normally crawl into bed feeling stressed from little things that happened throughout the day, I noticed that my new plant buddies helped balance things out. Even before I closed my eyes, I felt an increased sense of calm, simply from having the extra greenery in my line of sight.

After a couple of weeks of sleeping with plants alongside me, I noticed I was starting to fall asleep faster. I was even sleeping completely through the night more often, as opposed to waking up every time I heard the tiniest noise. Whether that was the improved air quality or the relaxing scent of lavender, who knows—but I started waking up feeling extra well-rested and ready to take on the day. Honestly, that was pretty unexpected. I was hoping this experiment worked, but I didn't expect it to have me feeling like my old self so quickly.

Now a month in, my sleep schedule still isn’t perfect. Occasionally, I find myself stirred awake by thoughts of lingering tasks on my unchecked to-do list. But for the most part, this whole plant-sleep connection seems like the real deal, and opening my eyes to a beautiful plant-filled oasis is quite possibly the best possible way to wake up.

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