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

J Affect Disord. 2018 Jan 1;225:523-529. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.08.069. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


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 48.0µmol/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 10µmol/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.

Keywords: Mental well-being; Nutritional status; Peripartum period; Pregnancy depression; Sleep; Tryptophan.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Personality Inventory
  • Pregnancy / blood*
  • Pregnant Women
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Tryptophan / blood*


  • Tryptophan