FoMO and Bedtime Delay Partially Mediate College Students’ Cell Phone Dependence During COVID-19


Mobile phones, especially smartphones, have greatly influenced our daily lives. As internet-capable mobile phones are used to pay bills, watch videos, communicate online and play games, they have become an integral part of many people’s lives.

survey: Mobile phone addiction and sleep quality in college students during the COVID-19 outbreak: The mediating role of bedtime procrastination and fear of missing out. Image credit: kittrat roekburi /

The addiction to our phones

In addition to the positive effects of cell phone use, scientists are constantly documenting adverse effects associated with cell phone addiction. For example, cell phone addiction is strongly associated with adverse behavioral and psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, and impulsivity.

Many people are unable to regulate their cell phone use, a condition often referred to as “cell phone addiction,” “cell phone addiction,” and “problematic smartphone use.” As a result, these people are vulnerable to the negative effects of excessive cell phone use.

Students are among the most vulnerable to cell phone addiction. According to a recent study, 50% of Chinese college tuition depends on their mobile phones.

This age group has lower self-control as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. This dependence has increased significantly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Cell phone addiction during the pandemic

Several restrictions have been put in place to limit the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, such as social distancing, national lockdowns, quarantine and home isolation. Unfortunately, these restrictive measures have greatly increased the dependence on mobile phones.

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During the pandemic, smartphones have become a primary source of information about COVID-19, as well as a way to communicate with others.

Previous studies have shown a link between cell phone addiction and sleep quality. This relationship is particularly strong for students with higher cell phone dependence.

Poor sleep quality leads to many psychological and physiological problems. In addition, scientists have revealed a link between Internet addiction and sleep quality through delayed bedtime. Therefore, it is imperative to determine the contributing factors that moderate the relationship between mobile phone addiction and sleep quality.

Recent research shows that the individual fear Frf missue Frut (FoMO) is also associated with cell phone dependence and sleep quality. The term FoMO is associated with individuals who long to be constantly connected to what others are doing. However, the potential influencing factors that link mobile phone addiction and poor sleep quality are not well understood.

About the research

In a recent study appearing in the journal BMC Public Health and currently published in Research Square* preprint server, researchers examine the relationship between cell phone dependence, bedtime procrastination, FoMO, and sleep quality among Chinese college students during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The present study suggests that bedtime procrastination, cell phone addiction, and FoMO are related to an individual’s sleep quality. For this purpose, online surveys were conducted in several universities during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Shanghai in May 2022. Undergraduate and graduate students participated in the survey.

Survey results

A total of 862 participants, whose average age was 20.5 years, completed the survey with valid responses. Bedtime delay and FoMO were found to influence cell phone addiction and sleep quality. This is consistent with a previous study that found a similar correlation coefficient between cell phone addiction and sleep quality.

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Excessive use of mobile devices before bed potentially reduces sleep time. Therefore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, increased smartphone use may have exacerbated the adverse effects associated with psychological stress and sleep disturbances. The blue light emitted by cell phone screens affects melatonin levels and the sleep process.

In China, WeChat is a popular social media application that helps in sending messages, chatting online and making video calls. Increased use of social media applications such as WeChat through mobile phones at bedtime is common among college students. This observation also suggests that college students stay on social media for extended periods due to elevated FoMO sentiments.

These findings are consistent with previous research revealing that cell phone addiction is positively related to FoMO. Additionally, since mobile device usage is significantly higher among college students, it is indicative that this group experiences higher levels of FoMO.


One limitation of this study is its cross-sectional design. In addition, the authors did not take into account other psychological and behavioral factors that could affect sleep quality.

Despite these limitations, the present study found that increased dependence on mobile phones among college students affected their sleep quality. In addition, students with high levels of mobile addiction had higher levels of FoMO, which affected their sleep quality.

Thus, a strong correlation between bedtime procrastination and FoMO was observed in this study.

*Important message

Research Square publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and therefore should not be considered conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or be treated as established information.

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Written by

Dr. Priyom Bose

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and accomplished science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research papers that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and amateur photographer.


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