In his team's first published report, researchers found something called electric coupling of brain cells.
"What this finding allows us to do is develop a lot more treatments, and stimulants, develop more stimulants that wake us up," Dr. Garcia-Rill says.
He also says, researchers are now looking at how some anesthetics put us to sleep, and how this electric coupling could help certain coma and stroke patients.
"After a massive stroke on the right side, you have spatial neglect, where the patient neglects that side of the world; never pays attention over there. Well, what we discovered is, that hemisphere, that half of the brain has fallen asleep."
Dr. Garcia-Rill says even for people without serious brain-related illness, like stroke, their findings have major implications.
"Because this is like your appetite, this is like your hormones. This is not anything fancy. This is a survival mechanism, and so, this is one of the first things to go, when the brain starts getting out of whack."