Adenotonsillectomy is often performed to relieve upper airway obstruction, even in children who do not present with severe apnea. Although adenotonsillectomy provides dramatic relief from obstructive sleep apnea, little evidence is available as to the efficacy of surgery in the far more prevalent cases of partial airway obstruction. We report the results of a prospective study of 100 children with adenotonsillar obstruction (without severe apnea) and 50 age-matched control children. The majority of patients exhibited appreciable sleep disturbances preoperatively, as compared to controls, and had substantial postoperative improvement, as demonstrated by parental questionnaire and sleep sonography--the computer-aided analysis of respiratory sounds. Mouth breathing and behavior problems were also prevalent preoperatively and were affected positively by adenotonsillectomy. It appears that surgery in such cases can have far-ranging benefits, even for the child whose obstruction does not demonstrate severe apnea.