When faced with a harsh climate or inadequate food, some mammals enter a state of suspended animation known as torpor. A major goal of torpor research is to determine mechanisms that integrate environmental cues, gene expression and metabolism to produce periods of torpor lasting from hours to weeks. Recent discoveries spanning the Metazoa suggest that sirtuins, the mammalian circadian clock, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) and lipids are involved in torpor induction. For example, sirtuins link cellular energy status to the mammalian circadian clock, oxidative stress and metabolic fuel selection. In this review, we discuss how these recent discoveries form a new hypothesis linking changes in the physical environment with changes in the expression of genes that regulate torpor induction.