Your internal clock

A while back, I mentioned having a dream where I was mousing on a computer and clicked an alert message and suddenly my computer mouse started vibrating. I woke up to realize that my phone was vibrating because it was firing off a reminder alert.

The question was how could my subconscious know to incorporate this vibrating/buzzing into my dream narrative? One possibility I explored was the idea that my subconscious knew when the reminder was going to go off and using a precise internal clock was able to craft the dream around the event. But the question then arises, “does our mind possess such a precise internal clock?”

I’m reading a book called “They Can’t Find Anything Wrong!” (about stress-induced illnesses) and there’s an interesting anecdote.

Another patient mentioned during discussion of her symptoms that she often awoke at precisely 1:08 AM. This happened a few nights each week for several years. A few months before her illness began her husband and parents were in a motor vehicle that crashed, killing her mother and husband. Her father recovered after weeks in intensive care. The car had crashed at 4:08 AM, but three times zones to our east in Connecticut. She was waking up at the precise moment of the accident and her illness was due to posttraumatic stress.

So she’s waking up at this precise point, not just once or twice, but a few nights each week for several years!

And, I think we’ve all had the experience of waking up right before your alarm clock goes off. This would seem to imply an internal clock accurate down to seconds. One question that occurs is whether this clock corresponds to “real-time” (e.g. the atomic clock) or reflects the time of various clocks it comes into contact with? If all the clocks in your house are off by 10 minutes, would your internal clock be?

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