I want to make a character that doesn't sleep at all or sleeps very little and stays alert when not sleeping. I'm making this character as an NPC and I'm the DM, so I can basically do anything, but I would like to see if I can make this work with some rules backup. What are the options I have here?
Background: This is for a campaign concept which I would call a "free-roaming" campaign. Basically, the players start at a low level, yet a flying ship (the only one in the setting) is suddenly thrown their way. I'll give the players a map and let them decide where to go. There will be story hooks in a lot of places, but they are free to take them or leave them, and improvisation from my side will be very important.
The NPC we're talking about is the helmsman of the ship, who feels his only duty is to the ship. His basic backstory is that he was always a good helmsman and he just made the step to the airship when he was looking for new challenges. He will be showing off his skillful maneuvers when he gets the opportunity (such as when they are being chased by a dragon - there's this whole dragon thing going on...). He is no fighting guy or adventurer, but I don't see any problem with limiting him to (the properties of) a particular level, and money isn't a problem either, since his previous patrons provided him with what he needed. Nevertheless, I wouldn't exactly go for epic level gear.
Basically, what I want to do is create the possibility to fly all night and day without requiring the characters to fly the ship or he need for additional crew members. I would also like for the helmsman to take care of "standing watch", alerting the crew when there's a dragon going for them, for example. For this, I want the guy awake as much as possible, and if I can't keep him awake all the time, he should be able to notice nearby dragons and problems with or deviations from the pre-plotted course.
The options I have been able to identify so far are limited to wearing a Ring of Sustenance and playing an Elf. The ring really is a good step in the right direction, but doesn't go all the way there, and I'm a little hesitant to make this guy an elf. I personally an elf in trance wouldn't quite give me the level of awareness I am looking for, and the character's personality doesn't seem very elfish to me either. While the withdrawn "let's ignore the PCs, focus on the ship instead and just get them to where they want to go" attitude does feel sort of elf-like, the drive to always become better at his job, taking risks along the way (and when doing special things with the air ship) doesn't really feel like a match with the elves to me. That might just be my vision of what elves are, though. Either way, I would prefer a somewhat mysterious backstory with him just being able to seemingly go on working all night over "just another elf".
What character abilities and items can be used to remove the need for sleep entirely, minimize the amount of downtime each night or keep awareness up while sleeping?