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I’ve always believed that the highest expression of love is recognizing and accepting that the people in your life — friends, family, colleagues, customers — are distinct beings from you with unique sets of experiences, beliefs, values, and talents. Celebrating individuality means meeting others where they are, rather than where you are — this mindset creates the right conditions for growth and reaching your full potential. This is especially true in coupledom. 

While studies show that autonomy is crucial to relationship satisfaction, historically we’ve often romanticized the fusion of ourselves with the one we love. Think of that iconic line from Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise tells Renée Zellweger, “You complete me.” This kind of unity that erases the border between us and the ones we love is just one aspect of our multidimensional relationships, but so is maintaining our independence and individuality, which promotes both our own well-being and that of our relationship. In fact, a Stanford University School of Medicine study of 141 American couples found that closeness and independence can exist together and both qualities determine the health and happiness of our unions. As psychotherapist and New York Times best selling author Esther Perel once put it: “Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.” 

It’s a sentiment I’ve always believed and it informs our greatest innovation at Sleep Number — the smart bed. An individualized experience has always been part of our purpose-driven mission, and I believe it not only enhances the quality of each person’s rest, but their romantic relationships, too. 

Traditional mattresses destructively assume that one size fits all, leading couples to compromises that rob them of optimal sleep, and studies show that poor sleep challenges the health and happiness of our relationships. Many people, in fact, forfeit the intimacy of sharing a bed, that quintessential symbol of coupledom, altogether. One in four American couples sleep in separate bedrooms, according to the National Sleep Foundation, opting for a “sleep divorce” to save their marriages. 

Part of my mission is to bring those couples back together into the same bed, and the smart bed can do that. I’ve had countless customers confess that our adjustable beds played an important part in restoring their marriages. These smart beds provide each individual with the exact right level of support and comfort that their body needs for the highest quality of sleep. They also read your biometrics by measuring your breathing, heart rate, and movement, and effortlessly make adjustments to the firmness to maximize your individual comfort, so you and your partner can wake well-rested and ready to keep strengthening your connection. 

Modern love and intimacy no longer means “two becoming one” — it means allowing yourself and your loved one the space to exist and grow individually so you can come together as a stronger unit. As Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran once wrote: “Let there be space in your togetherness. Stand together, yet not too near.” 

Or, as I like to say, sleep well during the night to dream big together during the day. 


Sleep Number® setting: 40; Average SleepIQ® score: 82

Follow me on Instagram @shellyibach and on LinkedIn here.


  • Shelly Ibach

    President and CEO of Sleep Number; Thrive Global Sleep Contributor

    Shelly R. Ibach, Sleep Number® setting 40, serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Sleep Number (Nasdaq: SNBR). From June 2011 to June 2012, Ms. Ibach served as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and from October 2008 to June 2011, she served as Executive Vice President, Sales & Merchandising. Ms. Ibach joined the Company in April 2007 as Senior Vice President of U.S. sales for Company-owned channels. Before joining the Company, Ms. Ibach was Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager for Macy’s home division. From 1982 to 2005, Ms. Ibach held various leadership and executive positions within Target Corporation.