When I travel long distances, I suffer from jet lag pretty spectacularly. At night, just as I'm ready to unwind with a nice meal, I'll find myself so tired that matchsticks couldn't keep my eyes propped open. And at an obscenely early hour I'll be awake but tired, chugging down coffee - and that means I stay in the same vicious lagged-up cycle for days on end.
For my most recent trip I vowed to avoid this push/pull entirely. This timezone hop would be different, I vowed, then set out to stack the deck a bit. I've tried all the basics and even some of the not-so-basics, but then I stumbled on Human Charger and its claims of massively curbing jet lag.
So how does it work? Human Charger operates on the premise that bright light stimulates our circadian rhythms. What makes this gadget different is that it shines light into your ears in 12 minute bursts - interesting, right? The makers claim it is the only non-pharmaceutical intervention that is scientifically proven to help beat jet lag.
The timing couldn't have been better - I had a flight coming up from London to Puerto Rico. The time difference is four hours, so clearly more manageable than some flights, but ideal for a trial run. I run a blog and podcast called Zestology on living with energy and zest, so I'm keen to see if I really could experience more jet and less lag.
Two days before flight: I download the Human Charger app and put in my flight details. It directs me to put the weird light earbuds in my ear in the mornings on the days leading up to my flight. I feel a gentle extra buzz of energy, but nothing else.
On the morning of the flight: Passport, check, tickets check, Human Charger check. Ready! But the big question: can the Human Charger really help get rid of that sluggish, post-flight hangover feeling?
On the flight itself: my fellow passengers look on rather suspiciously as I insert bright lights into my ears on the flight as directed by the app. In fact the app is super helpful, and explains that bright light in the evening of my destination in Puerto Rico (late night back in London) will have an effect in keeping me up and alert and full of zest.
If only the app would explain to the woman next to me that I'm not a member of some weird cult that likes to shine intense light in my ears. I'll be using it four separate times today, twice on the flight and twice once landed for 12 minutes each session.
On the evening after the flight: Once arrived in the Puerto Rican capital San Juan, the practicalities of using the device become tricky. I'm out on the town, having fun and hanging with friends. And the pesky app keeps bugging me, wanting me to stick my headphones on. I skip a session. Whoops. But wow, it still seems to work. I'm out til 2am (6am UK time) and I don't feel like a zombie.
One day after flight: I wake early, annoyingly early in fact. This nifty gadget may have had me up late last night but it doesn't seem to have helped the early starts that jet lag often brings. Undeterred I use it again as directed that evening and sure enough I stay out late once again.
Two days after flight: Once again I wake earlier than I'd like. This thing doesn't seem to help me sleep to my new time zone, but there's no doubt I've felt plenty of extra evening energy since I've been here.
Verdict: I definitely got a little buzz from Human Charger. Straightaway I felt a little extra evening energy after using it and was able to stay out late right from the start of my holiday. The downsides are that you have to remember to keep putting the light-emitting headphones in, which I found surprisingly inconvenient even with the phone reminders. You also look a little strange wearing it - not necessarily a hip look if you are in a meeting, out on the town or, really, doing anything other than sitting inside. Overall though, the Human Charger is definitely worth a go next time you take a flight.