AARP: Can’t sleep? These potted plants in your bedroom may help

by Claire R. McIntosh, AARP,

November 16, 2017

Houseplants help remove toxins, impart a feeling of calm and promote drowsiness when used in the bedroom.

Insomnia? Allergies? Asthma? Stress? Let’s clear the air, shall we? We’ve seen the science, so here’s the secret: You’ll rest easier with potted plants in your bedroom. There are studies by NASA, which has extensively researched how plants remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde and benzene) from a space station.

There’s research done by a Japanese company to design gardens that clean the air in hospitals. And then there’s that nerdy kid who sealed cat poop into one container with plants, and moldy bread into another container with plants.

He found that, relative to control containers that had the yucky stuff but not the plants, airborne contaminants were greatly reduced hours later. We wouldn’t bother mention his study but his coauthor was a nurse practitioner who worked in dad’s allergy clinic, and the physician later shared the results with colleagues at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Not only do certain houseplants help remove toxins, impart a feeling of calm and promote drowsiness, they’re also a Pinterest-pretty way to boost your boudoir style! Don’t you just love how the hanging plants, macramé and rattan planters and glass terrariums we all had in our first apartments are currently trending on Etsy? Cultivate these horticultural hacks and you can rest easy.

JASMINE

Researchers in Germany tested the scent of jasmine on lab mice and watched them curl up in a corner and chill. The plant affects the same key neurotransmitter that makes us mellow out after a dose of valium — and was found to be just as potent as psychotropic drugs in a clinical setting. Jasmine fragrance produces the molecular mechanism also triggered by barbituates to soothe, ease anxiety and promote sleep. Even better, let the fragrance of a potted jasmine waft through your bedroom tonight and you may avoid tomorrow’s afternoon slump.

VALERIAN

You’ve heard of swallowing this as a supplement or tea for restful sleep. Well, some Japanese neuroscientists learned that sniffing it helps too. While valerian is generally cultivated outside, follow these tips for green-thumbing it indoors.

ENGLISH IVY

Remember the kid, the moldy bread and the cat poop? Mold and pet feces are common household allergens, and English ivy is what cleared the air. Who can sleep when you’re sneezin’ and wheezin’? NASA scientists give it the nod, too. So if you want to nod off, let some English ivy trail down your nightstand.

GARDENIA

Five sleep researchers in Osaka. Twenty-one tossing and turning men. Six weeks. One compound derived from gardenias. Countless Zzzzzzzs. Zero side effects. You know what we love? This bedside-table perfect bonsai version from Harry and David.

LAVENDER

Of course, you knew this, because your mother kept lavender sachets in the drawer with her nightgowns. You want to sleep like a baby? Think lavender bouquet by the bed, essential oil on your pillow or added to your bedtime bath. Moms who bathed their babies in lavender smiled more, were less stressed and touched their babies more in the bath. The babies cried less, made more eye contact and had longer periods of deep sleep. Cortisol levels dropped in both moms and infants. Yes, please!

ALOE VERA

It vacuums up those VOCs while you catch your Zzzzs, say NASA scientists.

BOSTON FERN

Remember back in the '80s when yuppie watering holes were called "fern bars" because of this ubiquitous decoration? Turns out, this plant drinks up formaldehyde from the air. Here’s to your health.

SNAKE PLANT (MOTHER-IN-LAW’S TONGUE)

No green thumb? If you can’t keep this easy-care plant alive, you might as well give up and buy an air purifier.