1 June 2018

Spin-off from Utrecht University

Interactive app for sleeping problems available for download

One out of every five people in the Netherlands has trouble sleeping. As of today, people with insomnia and sleeping problems can download an app that has been scientifically proven to help people sleep better. Lyla Sleep Coach helps them to toss and turn less, and to wake up less often during the night. The online application is based in part on research conducted at Utrecht University.

Utrecht University researcher in interaction technology, Robbert Jan Beun, led a five-year research project into the function of an interactive app that can help people work on their sleep problems. Beun is now co-owner of the start-up company that created the Lyla Sleep Coach app. The scientist explains: “The app simulates sleep therapy provided by a real-life coach. That makes it an accessible and effective tool for helping people sleep better. The app was scientifically tested by researchers at UU, UvA and TU Delft, in an experiment with more than 150 test subjects. I will continue to remain involved in the areas of research and innovation.”

Screenshot of the Lyla Sleep Coach app


Fiemke Griffioen-Both, former postdoc researcher in Beun’s group, is now the Director of the company. “Two years ago, we learned that our app, which was called SleepCare at the time, truly helps people sleep better. We then continued developing it into Lyla Sleep Coach, which is now available for Android devices; the iPhone version will be released this summer. You don’t take Lyla to bed with you; you use it during the day. At the start of the evening, you conduct a five-to-10-minute chat with the app, where she explains the exercises and you can discuss what time you will go to bed and when you should wake up. In the morning, you write a journal entry about the previous night. At other moments during the day, Lyla coaches you with handy tips, such as relaxation exercises or when to stop drinking coffee for the day.”


Insight into your own behaviour

Over a period of six weeks, users of the app un-learn their bad sleep habits, and learn proper ones. Griffioen-Both: “It’s a very intensive process, that gives you insight into your own behaviour. You might feel even more fatigued at first, but then you’ll develop the right sleeping rhythm and you’ll feel fitter during the day. We observe a significant improvement in our test subjects when they perform the exercises.”

Research for the benefit of society

Griffioen-Both aims to make the app accessible to as many people suffering from sleeping problems as possible. “Studies by the CBS have shown that one out of five people in the Netherlands have trouble sleeping. We aim to help them with Lyla Sleep Coach. The first week is free, after which you can follow the rest of the six-week programme for only ten Euros.” The President of Utrecht University’s Department of Computer Science, Johan Jeuring, is extremely pleased with the valorisation of the research. “Applying academic research for the benefit of society at large is one of Utrecht University’s most important tasks. We are therefore very proud that this successful project has led to the creation of a new start-up company.”