The perioculomotor (pIII) region of the midbrain was postulated as a sleep-regulating center in the 1890s but largely neglected in subsequent studies. Using activity-dependent labeling and gene expression profiling, we identified pIII neurons that promote non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Optrode recording showed that pIII glutamatergic neurons expressing calcitonin gene-related peptide alpha (CALCA) are NREM-sleep active; optogenetic and chemogenetic activation/inactivation showed that they strongly promote NREM sleep. Within the pIII region, CALCA neurons form reciprocal connections with another population of glutamatergic neurons that express the peptide cholecystokinin (CCK). Activation of CCK neurons also promoted NREM sleep. Both CALCA and CCK neurons project rostrally to the preoptic hypothalamus, whereas CALCA neurons also project caudally to the posterior ventromedial medulla. Activation of each projection increased NREM sleep. Together, these findings point to the pIII region as an excitatory sleep center where different subsets of glutamatergic neurons promote NREM sleep through both local reciprocal connections and long-range projections.