Relation of plasma tryptophan concentrations during pregnancy to maternal sleep and mental well-being: The GUSTO cohort

Linde van Lee, Shirong Cai, See Ling Loy, Elaine K.H. Tham, Fabian K.P. Yap, Keith M. Godfrey, Peter D. Gluckman, Lynette P.C. Shek, Oon Hoe Teoh, Daniel Y.T. Goh, Kok Hian Tan, Yap Seng Chong, Michael J. Meaney, Helen Chen, Birit F.P. Broekman, Mary F.F. Chong

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Background Evidence suggests a relation between plasma tryptophan concentrations and sleep and mental well-being. As no studies have been performed in pregnant women, we studied the relation of plasma tryptophan concentrations during pregnancy with sleep quality, and mood during and after pregnancy. Methods Pregnant women (n = 572) from the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes study completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) at 26–28 weeks gestation and three months post-delivery. Plasma tryptophan concentrations were measured at 26–28 weeks gestation. Poisson regressions estimated prevalence ratios (PR) for the association between tryptophan and poor sleep quality (PSQI global score > 5), probable antenatal depression (EPDS ≥ 15) and probable anxiety (STAI-state ≥ 41) were calculated adjusting for covariates. Results Mean plasma tryptophan concentrations was 48.0 µmol/L (SD: 8.09). Higher plasma tryptophan concentrations were associated with a lower prevalence of antenatal poor sleep quality adjusting for covariates [PR: 0.88 (95% CI 0.80, 0.97) per 10 µmol/L], especially in those participants who also suffered from anxiety symptoms [PR: 0.80 (95% CI 0.67, 0.95)]. No associations were observed between tryptophan concentrations during pregnancy and postnatal sleep quality or mental well-being. Limitation Subjective measures were used to assess sleep and mental well-being. Conclusions We observed that higher plasma tryptophan concentrations were associated with a 12% lower prevalence of poor sleep quality during pregnancy, in particular among those with anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest the importance of having adequate tryptophan concentrations during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-529
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of affective disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Mental well-being
  • Nutritional status
  • Peripartum period
  • Pregnancy depression
  • Sleep
  • Tryptophan

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