Most brain neurons are active in waking, but hypothalamic neurons that synthesize the neuropeptide melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) are claimed to be active only during sleep, particularly REM sleep. Here we use deep-brain imaging to identify changes in fluorescence of the genetically encoded calcium (Ca2+) indicator GCaMP6 in individual hypothalamic neurons that contain MCH. An in-vitro electrophysiology study determined a strong relationship between depolarization and Ca2+ fluorescence in MCH neurons. In ten freely-behaving MCH-cre mice (male and female), highest fluorescence occurred in all recorded neurons (n=106) in REM sleep relative to quiet waking or non-REM sleep. Unexpectedly, 70% of the MCH neurons had strong fluorescence activity when the mice explored novel objects. Spatial and temporal mapping of the change in fluorescence between pairs of MCH neurons revealed dynamic activation of MCH neurons during REM sleep and activation of a subset of the same neurons during exploratory behavior. Functional network activity maps will facilitate comparisons of not only single neuron activity but also network responses in different conditions and disease.