Melanin concentrating hormone (MCH) is a cyclic neuropeptide present in the hypothalamus of all vertebrates. MCH is implicated in a number of behaviors but direct evidence is lacking. To selectively stimulate the MCH neurons the gene for the light-sensitive cation channel, channelrhodopsin-2, was inserted into the MCH neurons of wild-type mice. Three weeks later MCH neurons were stimulated for 1 min every 5 min for 24 h. A 10 Hz stimulation at the start of the night hastened sleep onset, reduced length of wake bouts by 50%, increased total time in non-REM and REM sleep at night, and increased sleep intensity during the day cycle. Sleep induction at a circadian time when all of the arousal neurons are active indicates that MCH stimulation can powerfully counteract the combined wake-promoting signal of the arousal neurons. This could be potentially useful in treatment of insomnia.