Despite an initial sedative effect, alcohol disrupts sleep persistently and should not be used as a sleeping aid. Nocturnal withdrawal symptoms may lead to an increased duration of wakefulness, and to tachycardia and sweating in the second half of the night. It is not known by which mechanism alcohol affects sleep; however, effects do not appear to depend on the stimulation of benzodiazepine receptors or the antagonism at adenosine receptors. Alcohol can exacerbate primary sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea and nocturnal myoclonus, and thereby contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness. The sleep of alcoholic patients is characterized by increased sleep latency, and reduced sleep efficiency, total sleep time, slow wave sleep and non-REM sleep. Even during abstinence, the changes in sleep architecture can persist for months or years, and might contribute to a relapse into alcoholism. The use of benzodiazepines or other hypnotics to treat alcohol-related sleep disturbances is not recommended.