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Getting some rest

People who suffer from restless leg syndrome, which can seriously disrupt normal sleeping patterns, should be tested for iron deficiency and review their medications, according to the November issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

Both sedating antihistamines and SSRI antidepressants are among the medications that can worsen symptoms. People with this condition should also reduce intake of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco and do daily exercises, especially walking and stretching.

If those measures fail, there are medications that may help, although they may have side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug specifically for restless leg syndrome. Ropinirole (Requip) "modestly improved symptoms" in 53 to 73 percent of cases, in three clinical trials. In those trials, 40 to 56 percent saw modest improvement with a placebo. The drug can cause nausea and dizziness, as well as daytime sleepiness. Other studies, the report noted, found long-term use sometimes worsens the condition.

Ropinirole is also used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Other drugs that have been approved for Parkinson's disease may also help, although they have not been prescribed specifically for restless leg syndrome. More information on the sleep-disrupting condition is available at www.rls.org, the Web site of the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation.