Many fundamental questions about sleep remain unanswered. The presence of sleep across phyla suggests that it must serve a basic cellular and/or molecular function. Microarray studies, performed in several model systems, have identified classes of genes that are sleep-state regulated. This has led to the following concepts: first, a function of sleep is to maintain synaptic homeostasis; second, sleep is a stage of macromolecule biosynthesis; third, extending wakefulness leads to downregulation of several important metabolic pathways; and, fourth, extending wakefulness leads to endoplasmic reticulum stress. In human studies, microarrays are being applied to the identification of biomarkers for sleepiness and for the common debilitating condition of obstructive sleep apnea.