Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea with nasal continuous positive airway pressure mandates simultaneous increases of both inspiratory and expiratory positive airway pressures to eliminate apneas as well as nonapneic oxyhemoglobin desaturation events. We hypothesized that the forces acting to collapse the upper airway during inspiration and expiration are of different magnitudes and that obstructive sleep-disordered breathing events (including apneas, hypopneas and nonapneic desaturation events) could be eliminated at lower levels of EPAP than IPAP. To test these hypotheses, a device was built that allows the independent adjustment of EPAP and IPAP (nasal BiPAP). Our data support the hypotheses that expiratory phase events are important in the pathogenesis of OSA and that there are differences in the magnitudes of the forces destabilizing the upper airway during inspiration and expiration. Finally, applying these concepts, we have shown that by using a device that permits independent adjustment of EPAP and IPAP, obstructive sleep-disordered breathing can be eliminated at lower levels of expiratory airway pressure compared with conventional nasal CPAP therapy. This may reduce the adverse effects associated with nasal CPAP therapy and improve long-term therapeutic compliance.