In animals, sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by altered consciousness (relative to walking), relatively inhibited sensory activity, and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles. It is distinguished from wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, and it is more easily reversible than being in hibernation or a coma.
During sleep, most systems in an animal's organism are in a heightened anabolic state, accentuating the growth and rejuvenation of, e.g., the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. It is observed in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and in some form also in insects and even simpler animals such as nematodes (see the related article Sleep (non-human)), suggesting that sleep is universal in the animal kingdom.
The purposes and mechanisms of sleep are only partially clear and the subject of substantial ongoing research. Sleep is sometimes thought to help conserve energy, though this theory is not fully adequate as it only decreases metabolism by about 5–10%. Additionally it is observed that mammals require sleep even during the hypometabolic state of hibernation, in which circumstance it is actually a net loss of energy as the animal returns from hypothermia to euthermia in order to sleep.
Humans may suffer from a number of sleep disorders. These include such dyssomnias as insomnia, hypersomnia, and sleep apnea; such parasomnias as sleepwalking and REM behavior disorder; and the circadian rhythm sleep disorders.