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    I’ve sometimes wondered if there isn’t something like sensory ring-buffer (i.e. active short term memory) while sleeping. I understand the theory about waking up just before the alarm, but my counter to that is that I’ve had experiences of waking up on hearing loud and unusual bangs – stuff falling or collapsing, late night fireworks, etc. – things that my sleeping brain couldn’t possibly have predicted. In each case, it still always seemed as though I woke up a second or two before hearing them.

    My theory is that it might be an evolutionary response to help kickstart a swift reaction to potential danger. If you woke up because of a rustling in the bushes nearby, you’re going to want to know immediately why you woke, the nature of what you heard, how close was it, and which direction did the sound come from. If you have to wait to hear it again after you’ve woken it may be too late.

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      Every time I set an alarm, I end up waking up around 10 to 20 minutes before it, then turning it off (before it ever rang) and getting on with my day…

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        I often experience something like this, even when fully awake. It goes like this: My wife will say something that I can’t understand. I’ll ask for clarification, but before she’s had time to repeat herself my brain have finished parsing what she said the first time and I suddenly understand what it is about. I interrupt her with my answer to her question. IIt’s Completely automatic, and I can’t stop myself from doing it even though I know I’ll most likely get it in a moment.

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          Be sure to take note of a thorough comment: http://disq.us/8menfc

          As interesting as the post itself, at least!

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            Armstrong’s theory (makes a lot of sense to me, and is consistent with other phenomena. For instance, your perception of what’s happening is often “delayed” a second or two behind real time. You can experimentally verify this by watching somebody chopping wood at a distance. The sound of the ax hitting the wood will be synchronized with the visual, even though that’s physically impossible. But the brain knows the two events belong together, and bends time to make it so. Up to a certain distance, that is. If you get far enough away, the gap is too much, and you’ll see a silent chop, then hear the chop.

            Some other experiments resulting in apparent reversal of cause and effect are on the wikipedia page. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_perception