Study: Drug used to treat Parkinson's disease can alleviate major cause of insomnia

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Ropinirole, a drug most commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease, can bring relief to people suffering from a condition called Restless Legs Syndrome, according to a study published in the August issue of Sleep.

The syndrome is a significant cause of insomnia, causing patients to suffer from uncomfortable feelings that cause their legs to twitch as they try to sleep, said Dr. Richard Allen, one of the authors of the 12-week study and a neurologist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. With the condition, it can take 30 minutes to an hour to fall asleep, Allen said, but the medicine reduced the time to 8 to 10 minutes.

The mean age of the study participants who received ropinirole was 55 years, and 63 percent were women. The average amount of extra sleep time achieved with the drug was 42 minutes, researchers said.

The symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome increase with age, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.