The amygdala has been implicated in emotional arousal and in the regulation of sleep. Previously, we demonstrated that tetrodotoxin (TTX), a sodium channel blocker that temporarily inactivates neurons and tracts, microinjected into the central nucleus of the amygdala (CNA) during the light period significantly reduced REM, shortened sleep latency, and increased EEG delta power in rats. TTX inactivation of CNA also reduced activity in the open field. These findings suggest that the amygdala modulates arousal in a variety of situations. To test the hypothesis that the amygdala may influence spontaneous arousal, we examined the effects of TTX inactivation of CNA on sleep and activity during the dark period when rats show higher arousal and less sleep. EEG and activity were recorded via telemetry in Wistar rats (n = 8). Bilateral microinjections of TTX (L: 2.5 ng/0.1; H: 5.0 ng/0.2 microl) or SAL (saline, 0.2 microl) were administered before lights off followed by recording throughout the 12-h dark period and following 12-h light period. Microinjections were given at 5-day intervals and were counterbalanced across condition. TTX significantly shortened sleep latency, increased NREM time, decreased REM time, and decreased activity. TTX increased NREM episode duration, whereas the number and duration of REM episodes were decreased. The present results indicate that TTX inactivation of CNA can increase NREM time when spontaneous arousal is high, suggesting a broad role for the amygdala in regulating arousal. The results suggest that understanding the ways in which the amygdala modulates arousal may provide insight into the mechanisms underlying altered sleep in mood and anxiety disorders.