Three targets, each with a restless legs syndrome trigger, one with a stress ball, one with a pizza slice, and one with boxing gloves and arrows shot into them

3 Things That Trigger My RLS

Have you ever noticed that sometimes your restless legs syndrome (RLS) can be really bad, even worse than on other days? Well, so do I. Sometimes I have weeks without any RLS symptoms and sometimes I get it really bad every evening, or sometimes even during the day.

I’m a person who wants to know why. That’s why I did some research about RLS and triggers. I also kept a diary about what I ate, drank, and how I slept. Basically all sorts of things that I thought might be triggers for me. I noticed that there are a few things that sometimes affect my RLS.

Trigger #1: Stress

This is one of my major triggers. When I’m having a stressful day I can almost be sure that in the evening my RLS will be bad. I think this has something to do with all the stress during the day and then relaxing in the evening. Maybe the difference between the day and evening is too big.

But maybe it also has something to do with hormones and how the body reacts to all the stress hormones in my body. One thing I know is that stress can start a vicious cycle. Because of stress, my RLS is bad, which can cause poor sleeping and that causes more stress, etc.

When I have a busy week that can be stressful, I try to also schedule relaxing moments during that week. I try to find a balance so that hopefully my RLS stays calm. This does not always work and sometimes I have to deal with it.

When I was a student, I did a group project and during one of our meetings, my RLS was bad. So while we had the meeting, everyone was sitting at the table and I walked circles around it.

The crazy thing is that sometimes I have major stress and I’m sure that my RLS will go crazy in the evening and then nothing happens. I don’t know why. RLS has a mind of its own. Maybe my medication is working really well, or maybe the stress was not that bad at all, or my balance was good. There are a lot of things that can have an influence on RLS.

Trigger #2: Food

It took a while before I realized that food is a trigger for me. When I eat healthy, my RLS is not there or hardly there a bit. So I try to eat healthy as much as possible, but sometimes I just want something else. Especially foods with a lot of sugar, like chocolate, candy, and pie, are triggers for me.

But it also depends on what I eat beforehand. If I had a normal, healthy meal and afterward I eat a little piece of chocolate then it’s fine. If I only eat chocolate, my legs will have a party. This also happens with fatty foods, like fries or pizza. My legs can go crazy after eating them.

However, just as with stress, sometimes I eat unhealthy stuff and nothing happens. Eating healthy is always good, and with RLS I think it makes a big difference. But it can be hard because we all want a piece of chocolate or some fries sometimes.

Trigger #3: Exercise

Just like food, exercise can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but with RLS, I notice that it’s important to find a balance. I walk, run, swim, and cycle and it makes me feel good and fit and I have almost no RLS symptoms. I always try to do this during the day.

Last year I tried boxing, so a lot of strength, and that was in the evening. Of the 16 lessons I took, I think I had RLS and periodic limb movement (PLM) during 12 of the lessons. It was terrible and I had to explain to the teacher that this was normal for me, that this is how my body reacts.

Maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned from that is that exercise is important, but with RLS I really need to find a balance. Balance in what kind of exercise and at what time during the day.

Knowing my triggers helps me adjust my lifestyle

These are just some triggers for me. Maybe some people recognize these triggers, maybe not. With RLS everyone reacts differently to different things. For me, it’s important to know what my triggers are so that maybe I can find a lifestyle without these triggers and without RLS. But that’s probably a long way to go…

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