The dark side of blue light, and why you should care

Take a minute to think about it: How much time do you spend every day looking at your phone? Or your computer screen? Or Netflix? You don’t have to answer out loud.

For many of us, that number -- of minutes, hours or both -- is probably pretty high. Between our personal and our professional lives, there can be a lot to keep up with: emails, social media, TV shows and text messages, just to name a few.

Blue light, which comes from our devices, among other things, has been linked to dry eyes, eye strain, cellular damage and disrupted sleep cycles, not to mention some more serious health problems, which we’ll get into. The director of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School has called this excess of artificial light -- especially at night -- “a growing public health concern,” according to a WebMD report.

Related: Is blue light damaging our eyes? All your questions, answered

You’ve heard it before, we know: All that “screen time” isn’t good for our eyes or our bodies. But, real talk -- does it matter? How harmful could any of this be, really?

Well, to give you the TL;DR version -- it's complicated. Perhaps "complicated" isn't even the right word. It's scientific, really, and there are a lot of unknowns at this time. For example, while researching this story, a lot of people wanted to know the bottom line(s): What does blue light mean for our health? Should we wear blue light-filtering glasses? Are we damaging our retinas by staring at screens all day? What will all this exposure to blue light mean for us in our 70s?

To answer that last question, it's tricky: we're the first generation who'll have spent a significant portion of our lives staring into our smartphones. It's not clear if we'll have done serious damage to our eyes by the time we become grandparents, because older people now didn't have to consider things such as this. And as for special glasses, and whether they're worth the money, well, it depends on who you ask. Some experts say they definitely filter out blue light, which helps protect your eyes. (At this time, the glasses are not considered medical devices, and thus, are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). And a study from 2015 says there is no measurable radiation coming from computer monitors -- and there's not enough information and research to recommend computer glasses.

So there you have it: just a few reasons why this gets tricky.

We talked to an expert to get some more answers and share what we do know. Tap or click on to read our full question-and-answer session with Dr. Gary Morgan of VSP Vision Care.