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How to Use Basal Insulin: Benefits, Types and Dosage

Insulin is a hormone found in the pancreas that is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use it properly.

People diagnosed with diabetes benefit from increasing their body's natural insulin levels by injecting insulin.

Different types of insulin are available. They can be classified by:

  • how fast they work (onset time)
  • how long their effect lasts (duration)
  • when they peak (peak time)

Basal insulin is one type of insulin that is available and it plays an important role in managing diabetes.

What is basal insulin?

Basal insulin is also known as background insulin. It helps keep blood sugar levels stable during fasting periods such as between meals or while sleeping.

During this time, the body continues to release sugar (also known as glucose) into the bloodstream. This gives energy to the body's cells.

Basal insulin helps keep glucose levels in check. The insulin enters the bloodstream several hours after injection.

It keeps blood sugar levels constant throughout the day and night. Basal insulin generally stays in the system for 18-24 hours.

Types of basal insulin

There are two main types of basal insulin:

Long-acting insulin

This type of insulin can be recommended for different types of diabetes. It generally works in the body for up to 24 hours, although some types can last longer than this.

Long-acting basal insulin should be injected either once or twice daily, depending on the type of insulin used and the needs of the patient.

Long-acting insulin tends to have no peak activity and mimics the natural function of the pancreas. It allows for consistent delivery and keeps blood sugar levels constant throughout the day and night.

The three types of long-acting insulin are:


  • delivers consistent activity from around 1 hour after injection
  • works for up to 24 hours
  • usually injected once a day


  • delivers consistent activity within 1 hour of injection
  • usually does not take the full 24 hours
  • 1-2 shots daily required


  • provides consistent activity for more than 42 hours
  • allows for a more flexible injection schedule

Intermediate acting insulin

This is used in the same way as long-acting insulin, but it usually needs to be injected twice a day. Intermediate acting insulin is also referred to as "isophane" or "NPH" insulin.

It enters the bloodstream within 2 to 4 hours after injection and peaks after 4 to 12 hours. After that, the levels in the body begin to drop.

Intermediate-acting insulin is often combined with short-acting or normal insulin. This can be prescribed by a doctor in various proportions as part of the diabetes treatment plan.

Other types of insulin

Basal insulin is just one type of insulin. The other types of insulin that can help manage symptoms of diabetes are:

Fast acting insulin

This begins to work within 15 minutes of administration and peaks around 1 hour. Fast-acting insulin can stay in the body for up to 4 hours. Types of fast-acting insulin are:

Short-acting or regular insulin

Short-acting or regular insulin starts working in 30 minutes. It peaks in about 2 to 4 hours. Types of regular insulin are:

advantages and disadvantages

Basal insulin has a number of benefits for diabetics, including:

  • Easier blood sugar level management: Levels stay more consistent as there is no peak time.
  • More flexible lifestyle: Meal and injection timing can be varied as there are no peak times.
  • Less frequent injections: Basal insulin only requires one to two injections a day.
  • Lower risk of complications: when used after an examination soon after diagnosis.
  • Less weight gain: Research suggests that basal insulin causes less weight gain than other insulin.
  • Used as part of basal bolus therapy: with an extra shot of bolus insulin with meals.

Basal insulin is central to many types of insulin therapy and offers many benefits. However, there are some drawbacks to using it, including:

  • Hypoglycemia: a common side effect of insulin. The risk of this is lowest with basal insulin.
  • Nighttime hypoglycemia: a possibility when intermediate acting insulin.
  • Weight Gain: There is an opportunity to gain weight, but less with basal insulin than others.


There are many factors to consider when deciding when and how often to use basal insulin. These include:

  • lifestyle
  • the body's need for insulin
  • Readiness for injection
  • Morning blood sugar level

How basal insulin is used is based on a person's individual needs and the type of diabetes they have. It is always important to discuss these factors with a doctor and follow the advice they give.

Type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes tend to need much less insulin. However, this condition means that they must replace all of the body's insulin.

Therefore, people with type 1 diabetes should receive their dose through an insulin pump or basal bolus therapy.

Type 2 diabetes

Those with type 2 diabetes often need more insulin. This is because they are insulin resistant.

A basal insulin program is usually recommended for these people when oral medication is no longer sufficient. This is based on the individual's weight, hormone levels, and diet.

If symptoms cannot be controlled with this method, a basal bolus regimen can be used instead. Because basal insulin needs vary from person to person, it is important to stick to the treatment plan your doctor has provided.