Myths are a part of our culture. Just like plants and trees are. Some myths are historical. Some are just mere superstitions. Whereas, some survived because we never unlearned them. And, it is what we are here to do. We are here to unlearn.
When I was 6, my grandfather told me that we should not sleep under a tree at night. He said it is unhealthy. Just like any other 6-year-old who was unaware of photosynthesis and respiration in plants, I believed him. However, I remained curious what do plants do at night that they become unsafe. I am not climbing them anyway.
“It is not about climbing,” my grandfather explained, “It is because at night, plants stop giving us Oxygen. Instead, they inhale it from their environment.” In short, he meant that plants stop photosynthesis at night and consume oxygen for respiration. In return, they produce carbon dioxide that is harmful (in his opinion).
Does Photosynthesis Process Stop at Night?
Yes. Plants always need light for photosynthesis. In the day time, they receive the light (from obviously, the sun) and carbon dioxide (from us). Not to mention, water. They use these three things to prepare their food. During the process of food-preparation, they release Oxygen. Therefore, if plants don’t eat, we won’t breathe. It is basic respiration in plants. Imagine what will happen to us as we are cutting them like anything?
However, there is a catch. Can Photosynthesis occur in the dark? The answer is yes. Plants don’t necessarily need sunlight for photosynthesis. They just need light. It means we can also make it happen using artificial light. All we need is light with red and blue wavelengths. Here, the great Salman Khan from not-for-profit Khan Academy has explained it beautifully in case you want to dig more into the Photosynthesis process including Calvin cycle later. Now that we have refreshed our minds to it, I think we are good to unlearn the great myth.
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How Much Oxygen Do Plants Consume at Night?
Plants only consume 4% of the Oxygen they have produced all through the day. Remember, our earth constitutes 21% of the Oxygen. I said they have produced (4%) and the total is 21%. Numbers just set the point staright. Moreover, out of 11,000 liters of air we inhale and exhale on the daily basis, we only use 550 liters of Oxygen (pure) to survive.
By all means, there is enough breathable Oxygen for us even if we believe plants will take too much of it to leave us breathless. If it doesn’t satisfy you, this will. For every single human being, we have 7500 plants. They all constantly produce Oxygen for you with only the 4% ROI (return on investment). Initial verdict: it is safe to sleep under 7500 trees at 1 AM. And, if someone asks why we should not sleep under a tree at night, tell them that they misunderstood photosynthesis process.
What About The Carbon dioxide?
As Franklin Veaux wrote in this Quora answer, you produce more carbon dioxide at night then an entire tree does. If it were deadly, you would have killed yourself already before plants had. I can throw a lot of numbers at you as to how much Carbon dioxide plants produce and how much you do. Or, how much Carbon dioxide can kill you. However, I think I have made my point and it is the time to give the final verdict. It is a myth that we should not sleep under a tree at night. What about my grandfather?
Even though, my grandfather is no more alive to witness me unlearning what he himself taught me, I think he would have been proud. It was his words that made me realize the importance of unlearning in life. I remember how I wouldn’t stop crying after his demise until one day, my father told me that he is watching me all the time somewhere out there. I like to believe that he still does. And, he is still doing as I write this in my study, all prepared to take a walk near trees, and it is 11 PM.
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