If you have wondered whether plants sleep, you are not alone – it is an interesting question.
This article will explore how plants sleep in their own way by using their cycadean rhythms and discuss how they sleep at night and enter dormant phases during the winter, droughts, and heatwaves – including amazing plants that fall asleep when you touch them.
So, continue reading to find out why plants have a truly unique way of sleeping!
Do Plants Sleep?
While plants cannot sleep the way we do, they do rest as they are controlled by their 24-hour circadian rhythms, which are synchronized with the earth’s day and night cycle and they regularly enter dormant phases which promote rest and rejuvenation.
Interestingly, they can maintain their circadian rhythms, even when they are artificially exposed to light all the time in laboratories, that is how powerful they are.
Circadian rhythms are also important for humans, as it tells us when we must sleep at night and it wakes us up when the morning sunlight enters our eyes and it deactivates melatonin or sleepiness hormones in our brains.
A research study proved that plants could sync their cycadean clocks with their natural environment by continuously measuring their sugar levels, or stored energy so they know when they need to generate more energy in the daytime when the sun shines.
The sun plays an important role in a plant’s behavior as it depends on photosynthesis, or the ability to transform water and carbon dioxide into energy or food, which is a vital lifeline.
Sunflowers are a prime example of how plants follow the sun’s direction. Time-lapsed videos have shown that they can sway back and forth at sunrise and during sunsets as if performing a gracious dance to reach the sun.
Do Plants Sleep At Night?
Like humans, plants need to rest at night to metabolize their stored energy, especially because their photosynthesis processes shut down when the sun sets.
Certain plant species may also look more relaxed at night as they fold their leaves away or close their flower petals to reduce any potential moisture loss.
However, plants are not entirely at rest during the nighttime as their respiration processes continue, including the circulation of glucose that helps them to grow when they are resting, and not harvesting energy.
Amazingly, the entire day and night plant cycle can be seen from space as NASA’s International Space Station, ECOSTRESS instrument, has captured the cyclical nature of plant life on earth, with noticeable differences when the sun rises each morning.
Plants also have a unique ability to predict the dawn and to move in the direction of the sun each new day to renew their energy supplies.
Do Plants Sleep In Winter?
Like humans, plants know when it is time to go to sleep or become dormant to prepare their foliage for icy winters, droughts, or when their nutrients are lacking.
Just like people, plants are severely affected by seasonal changes that bring about less light, and colder temperatures, which makes us and them naturally sleepier, so plant growth also starts slowing down as days become shorter before winter sets in.
Most plants enter a sleeping or a dormant period in the winter, and it does not matter whether they are indoors, or out in nature. It is an important resting period for plants as it helps them survive in icy winter conditions and keeps them alive until they can regrow in spring.
Instead of wasting their energy on growing, plants enter a dormant period to conserve their limited energy, and to allow their roots to grow until mild temperatures return, and they can thrive.
If a plant continues to grow in winter, without entering a dormant phase, water stored in its trunks, leaves, and stems would freeze, and damage the plant.
For example, trees that are exposed to the sudden onset of freezing conditions before winter sets in are normally damaged as the water contained in their bark expands and freezes, and they do not have access to sunlight, or essential water supplies as the ground freezes over.
This resting period is not limited to the winter as plants, especially trees enter a stress-related dormant stage during severe droughts, or heatwaves when they will shed their leaves to retain moisture, and to ensure their survival.
How Do Plants Wake Up After Sleeping?
While shorter nights and more sunlight signal the beginning of spring it does not automatically wake plants up from their sleepy dormant phase.
In fact, it can take several weeks before plants start growing again, it highly depends on the climate that they are growing in.
Moreover, dormant plant species can also be severely damaged when there is an unexpected warm spell that brings them out of their sleepy phase and promotes growth, only for temperatures to start dropping once again and shorten their lifespan.
What Plants Go To Sleep When They Are Touched?
Amazingly some plants do go to sleep when you touch them, especially hyper-sensitive plants like the Mimosa pudica, or the aptly named Sleepy plant, or “touch-me-not”, a tropical shrub.
Native to Central, including South America this fragile plant has delicate fern-like foliage and puffy round light purple flowers.
This incredible plant appears to go to sleep when someone touches it as its fine leaves close, and curl inwards for a few minutes to protect itself.
Mimosa pudica plants store precious minerals and water in their leaves which automatically close when the plant senses a change in their cellular water pressure.
Scientists also believe that the Mimosa pudica’s unique ability to close its leaves exposes the plant’s pointy spines that are attached to their stems which protects them from predatory insects and herbivores.
Mimosa pudica plants are not only reactive to a person’s touch, but also to light, and temperature changes that make them look asleep.
Although plants cannot sleep as we do, they use their circadian cycles to rest at night, so it is their unique way of sleeping or resting before the break of dawn.
Like humans, plants rest at night to store their energy and enter dormant periods during the winter, droughts, or heatwaves to ensure their survival. While other incredible plants like the magical Mimosa pudica appear to go to sleep when touched as a protective mechanism.