Sleep is a fundamental biological process observed widely in the animal kingdom, but the neural circuits generating sleep remain poorly understood. Understanding the brain mechanisms controlling sleep requires the identification of key neurons in the control circuits and mapping of their synaptic connections. Technical innovations over the past decade have greatly facilitated dissection of the sleep circuits. This has set the stage for understanding how a variety of environmental and physiological factors influence sleep. The ability to initiate and terminate sleep on command will also help us to elucidate its functions within and beyond the brain.