Sleep spindles arise from the interaction of thalamic and cortical neurons. Neurons in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) inhibit thalamocortical neurons, which in turn excite the TRN and cortical neurons. A fundamental principle of anatomical organization of the thalamocortical projections is the presence of two pathways: the diffuse matrix pathway and the spatially selective core pathway. Cortical layers are differentially targeted by these two pathways with matrix projections synapsing in superficial layers and core projections impinging on middle layers. Based on this anatomical observation, we propose that spindles can be classified into two classes, those arising from the core pathway and those arising from the matrix pathway, although this does not exclude the fact that some spindles might combine both pathways at the same time. We find evidence for this hypothesis in EEG/MEG studies, intracranial recordings, and computational models that incorporate this difference. This distinction will prove useful in accounting for the multiple functions attributed to spindles, in that spindles of different types might act on local and widespread spatial scales. Because spindle mechanisms are often hijacked in epilepsy and schizophrenia, the classification proposed in this review might provide valuable information in defining which pathways have gone awry in these neurological disorders.