Orexins are a family of neuropeptides originally believed to be important mediators of food intake. The wide distribution of orexins and their receptors, however, has suggested other regulatory functions for these peptides including involvement in sleep and arousal mechanisms. In this study, we have demonstrated diurnal variation in orexin A immunoreactivity in the pons, from where locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurones innervate other brain areas to stimulate arousal, and in the preoptic/anterior hypothalamic region, an area implicated in the regulation of sleep and circadian rhythms. Orexin A immunoreactivity decreased by 50% in the preoptic/anterior hypothalamus from 09:00 to 21:00 h (P < 0.0001), whilst in the pons, it increased by over 30% from 09:00 to 01:00 h (P = 0.02). Prepro-orexin mRNA also displayed diurnal variation. This further suggests that orexins are involved in the regulation of the sleep/wake cycle.