Sleep deprivation has a broad variety of effects on human performance and neural functioning that manifest themselves at different levels of description. On a macroscopic level, sleep deprivation mainly affects executive functions, especially in novel tasks. Macroscopic and mesoscopic effects of sleep deprivation on brain activity include reduced cortical responsiveness to incoming stimuli, reflecting reduced attention. On a microscopic level, sleep deprivation is associated with increased levels of adenosine, a neuromodulator that has a general inhibitory effect on neural activity. The inhibition of cholinergic nuclei appears particularly relevant, as the associated decrease in cortical acetylcholine seems to cause effects of sleep deprivation on macroscopic brain activity. In general, however, the relationships between the neural effects of sleep deprivation across observation scales are poorly understood and uncovering these relationships should be a primary target in future research. © 2007 Birkhäuser Verlag.