The sleep-waking discharge patterns of neurons in the posterior lateral hypothalamus (PLH) were investigated in the rat. Previous studies in the cat demonstrated that this region contained neurons that fired tonically at low rates (2-4 Hz) during waking, decreased firing in non-rapid eye-movement (NREM) sleep and nearly ceased firing during rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep. These "REM-off" neurons were proposed to be histaminergic neurons of the tuberomammillary nucleus (TM). Since many anatomical and physiological studies are performed in the rat, we sought to examine the sleep-waking discharge of these neurons in this animal. We found three main types of discharge patterns among PLH neurons. Waking-related neurons decreased their discharge in NREM sleep, and remained at low rates during REM sleep. A subpopulation of these neurons discharged very little during REM sleep (<0.2 Hz) (REM-off neurons). Waking/REM-related neurons decreased their discharge in NREM sleep and returned to waking rates in REM sleep. REM-related neurons decreased their discharge in NREM sleep and increased their discharge during REM sleep higher than waking rates. No NREM-related discharge patterns were recorded. Waking-related and waking/REM-related neurons were similar in location within the PLH and action potential duration. Some REM-off and other waking-related neurons were recorded within the boundaries of the histaminergic TM, however, not all waking-related and REM-off neurons were found within this region. Furthermore, neurons with waking/REM-related and state-indifferent discharge patterns were localized within the TM. These results suggest that waking-related and/or REM-off neurons may not be exclusively histaminergic in rats.