Abstract Mandibular setback reduces space in the pharyngeal airway, and it has been suggested that it might induce sleep-disordered breathing. We report on its effects on space in the pharyngeal airway and respiratory function during sleep. We studied 78 patients (29 men and 49 women) in whom skeletal class III malocclusions had been corrected. The mean (range) age at operation was 24 (16–38) years and body mass index (BMI) 21.4 (16.1–30 .9)kg/m2. Morphological changes were evaluated on lateral cephalograms taken three times: preoperatively, a few days postoperatively, and more than 6 months postoperatively. Overnight arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2) was measured by pulse oximetry 6 times: preoperatively, and on days 1, 3, 5, and 7, and 6 months postoperatively; oximetric indices were calculated. Those immediately after mandibular setback were significantly worse than those preoperatively, although they gradually improved. There were positive correlations between BMI and oximetric indices, and little association between changes in mandibular position and oximetric indices. There was no evidence of sleep-disordered breathing 6 months after mandibular setback because most patients adapt to the new environment for respiratory function during sleep. However, some (particularly obese) patients may develop sleep-disordered breathing just after mandibular setback. In such patients attention should be paid to respiratory function during sleep in the immediate postoperative period, and careful postoperative follow-up is needed.