According to Web MD, the average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night to function properly; some people may require more, some less. Lack of sufficient or high-quality sleep has harmful side effects. To better understand the importance of sleep, students in science and psychology courses can write research papers on aspects of sleep, such as sleeping disorders, sleep deprivation, sleep stages and dreaming.

Sleep Disorders

In your sleep research paper, discuss sleep disorders such as insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep at night; sleep apnea, breathing disruptions during sleep; narcolepsy, uncontrollably falling sleep; and restless leg syndrome, a strange sensation in the legs and the need to move them constantly. Write about the causes, symptoms, diagnostic tests, complications, treatments and prognosis of each sleep disorder. You can also write an in-depth paper on one of these sleep disorders.

Sleep Deprivation

Focus your research paper on sleep deprivation -- when a person doesn't get the amount of sleep he needs. Because people of different ages require different amounts of sleep -- infants need about 16 hours, whereas teenagers need about nine hours -- you can write about sleep deprivation in infants, children, teenagers or adults. Include the causes of sleep deprivation, such as a demanding job or a new infant; symptoms, such as memory problems and drowsiness; and the dangers, such as getting into a car accident while driving.

Sleep Stages

Sleep happens in four stages -- stages 1 through 3, then a rapid eye movement period known as REM -- which gives you ample material for a research paper. Explore what takes place during each stage, including the depth of sleep, eye movements, brain waves and dreaming. Include the sleep cycles in which these stages occur and how these cycles change through the night. Because age affects the amount of time a person spends in each sleep stage, you could focus on a certain age group, such as infants, adults or older adults.

Dreaming

No one knows for sure why humans dream while they sleep. It may just be a byproduct of sleep, part of memory consolidation, a mood regulator or a method of conflict resolution. You can explore all or one of these theories in your research paper. You'll also want to include in which sleep stages dreaming occurs and the effects of dreaming, such as possibly relieving depression. If you're writing a sleep research paper for a psychology class, explore the meaning of dreams, using Sigmund Freud as a guide.