Narcolepsy Companion App


  • Trainee: Jan de Wit
  • Company: Kempenhaeghe en SEIN Sleep Centers
  • Company supervisor: Sebastiaan Overeem
  • TU/e supervisor: Panos Markopoulos


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder with a broad range of symptoms. Together with Kempenhaeghe and SEIN sleep centers, we developed a working prototype of a companion app designed to run on patients’ smartphones, to increase the frequency with which they are able to report on the way they have been experiencing their symptoms. Rather than simply creating a digital version of the existing paper questionnaire, the entire act of registering symptom severity has been redesigned to take optimal advantage of the mobile phone platform. Because it is designed to be used frequently and long-term, care was taken to ensure that registering symptoms requires low effort. One of the main challenges with these types of systems is getting this long-term commitment, when there is no direct payoff for the patient. Fortunately, modern platforms such as smartphones and watches allow us to schedule reminders to try and keep people engaged.

Next to the app itself, a dashboard was developed as a tool for doctor-patient meetings, where for a particular patient all the reported symptom severity ratings can be shown through time. The idea is for the doctor, together with the patient, to discover topics of discussion and perhaps use the self-reported data as a guideline to inform treatment decisions.

Jan: “It was great to see how much we could learn about the user experience of the app just by looking at the data that was being logged. For example, there seemed to be different patterns of use. Where some people would stick to daily use, others would take frequent breaks of a few days, even when they were being sent reminders. As a secondary feature, we introduced the ability to leave open comments in the app, kind of like a diary. This actually became the main functionality for some users, giving us a lot of insight in the form of features or symptoms that were currently missing in the app and qualitative information that could help to create personas to inform our future design decisions.”