You charge your phone. You charge your camera. You might even charge your car. Now, you can charge yourself, too.
If you’ve been searching high and low for jet lag remedies, look no further: HumanCharger, created by health technology company Valkees, is an iPod-like device you can plug into with ear buds and go about your day as normal. You’ll be fully charged in 12 minutes, no pills required. And unlike an iPod, there are no distracting sounds.
This new-to-the-market device makes use of bright-light therapy. Sound crazy? There’s science to back it up. A recent study looked at 18 young, healthy adults to see the effects of ultraviolet-free, blue-enriched light through the ear canal. They found that the light was able to penetrate the skull, reach the temporal lobe and impact brain functioning.
While clinical use of bright light through the ear was beyond the scope of the study, the researchers cite the work of Heidi Jurvelin, who suggests transcranial bright-light therapy has the potential to ease depressive effects of those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is thought to be similar to jet lag, at least in terms of the interruption to your circadian rhythm — extreme weariness is one of the most prominent symptoms.
Bright-light therapy can help improve conditions other than SAD, too: It can also help treat insomnia, OCD, PMS and Parkinson’s disease, among other ailments.
While patients undergoing bright-light therapy would traditionally sit in front of a special light box daily for 30 minutes, HumanCharger is portable and reduces that time by more than half. I spoke with Nick Ieraci, chief operating officer of HumanCharger, who explains the device’s benefits.
“HumanCharger can help reduce the effects of jet lag by 50 percent,” Ieraci says. “When traveling through different time zones, the body’s natural rhythm is thrown out of sync, causing the feeling of fatigue, sleepiness and forgetfulness. With the HumanCharger app, travelers can plan when and how many times to use the device before and after traveling in order to reduce the effects of jet lag. Much like its application for the winter blues, the photosensitive receptors in the brain release chemical compounds to increase energy levels.”
So, how is this different from simply shining a light into your ear for 12 minutes? Besides the fact that your arm would probably get tired, the effects on the brain differ. Unlike traditional bright-light therapy devices that suppress melatonin — a hormone that regulates our cycles of sleeping and waking — HumanCharger stimulates the brain’s light-sensitive areas related to serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.
“Using our patented LEDSet, a calibrated white light is sent to these areas of the brain, which in turn release chemical compounds that help increase mental alertness, improve mood and increase energy levels,” Ieraci explains.
Whether your body is confused because you’ve switched time zones or you live in a place where daylight is seasonally hard to come by, HumanCharger essentially lets you carry the sun in your pocket. And according to Ieraci, their team is already working on their next-generation device (tech moves quickly in 2017).
As for the future of bright-light therapy, Ieraci notes more scientific studies may be conducted to explore natural light’s effect on human beings.
“We may see a correlation between the lack of sunlight and particular diseases or conditions that we are currently treating with medication,” he hypothesizes. “Modern lifestyles are such that we are not spending enough time outdoors. This surely has an effect on the human body and its natural functions.”
Whether you choose to invest in the device or not, spending more time in natural light — even if that means sitting by your office window on a sunny winter day — can only help ease your jet lag symptoms and recharge your inner batteries.