Environmental light has a strong impact on human physiology and behaviour, including cognitive functioning and alertness. Previous studies have shown that short light–dark (LD) cycles influence sleep in the albino rat. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep increases after the onset of darkness and increases after light onset. In the present study, we investigated whether light affects sleep in mice. To this purpose the electroencephalogram and electromyogram of nine adult male C57BL/6 mice was recorded under 12 : 12 h baseline LD conditions, followed by 24 h continuous darkness (DD) and 6 days with LD cycles of different durations (2 h, 30 min, 14 min, 10 min, 4 min and 2 min), presented in a randomized order. NREM sleep was evenly distributed over the light and dark intervals of all short LD cycles. REM sleep, however, was increased during the dark intervals of short (10–30 min) LD cycles. Analysis showed that in these LD cycles, the increment in REM sleep was maximal in the second minute after dark onset, where the percentage of epochs with REM sleep increased significantly to 175% of baseline values. This increase was attributable to an increase in REM sleep episode duration. The recorded responses show that sleep in mice is affected by photic stimulation. The results demonstrate that pigmented animals can show REM sleep induction after dark onset and indicate that light has significant effects on the regulation of sleep.