Respiratory insufficiency is a leading cause of death due to drug overdose or neuromuscular disease. We hypothesized that a stimulation paradigm using temporal interference (TI) could restore breathing in such conditions. Following opioid overdose in rats, two high frequency (5000 Hz and 5001 Hz), low amplitude waveforms delivered via intramuscular wires in the neck immediately activated the diaphragm and restored ventilation in phase with waveform offset (1 Hz or 60 breaths/min). Following cervical spinal cord injury (SCI), TI stimulation via dorsally placed epidural electrodes uni- or bilaterally activated the diaphragm depending on current and electrode position. In silico modeling indicated that an interferential signal in the ventral spinal cord predicted the evoked response (left versus right diaphragm) and current-ratio-based steering. We conclude that TI stimulation can activate spinal motor neurons after SCI and prevent fatal apnea during drug overdose by restoring ventilation with minimally invasive electrodes.